The Breeders’ Cup World Championships are less than a month away, and the final “Win and You’re In” races are ramping up. Every “Win and You’re In” race guarantees the winner a spot in a particular Breeders’ Cup race at Santa Anita Park, and every top horse in North America is gunning for a spot in those races.
While Tepin was a stakes winner as a 2-year-old, winning the Grade 3 Delta Downs Princess Stakes on dirt in 2013, it wasn’t until 2015 that she really hit the limelight.
Tepin’s 4-year-old season started in an allowance optional claiming race on turf at Gulfstream Park in March 2015 after a seven-month layoff. Her one-length victory was the beginning of what would turn into a championship season.
Five weeks later, on the Belmont Stakes undercard, Tepin went for her first Grade 1 stakes victory in the Longines Just a Game Stakes. This race would prove more difficult, as Tepin did not set the pace and instead chased Discreet Marq before taking the lead in the final sixteenth. She held off a late challenge by Filimbi to score by a half-length, and while her win in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile may not have marked Tepin as one of the top fillies in her division, her performance in the Just a Game did.
Unfortunately for Tepin, Saratoga was a place of tough beats for her later that summer. First running in the Diana Stakes in late July, Tepin lost by a nose to Hard Not to Like. Her next race at Saratoga one month later brought a similar result, as Dacita got up at the wire to defeat Tepin by a head in the Ketel One Ballston Spa Stakes.
Those Saratoga losses seemed to motivate Tepin even more, as she hasn’t lost since.
Fast forward to October 2015, where in the First Lady Stakes, Tepin’s final prep for the Breeders’ Cup Mile, she ran on Keeneland’s turf course for the first time. On a track listed as soft, Tepin clearly relished the going, winning by seven lengths in hand under regular rider Julien Leparoux.
Though the Breeders’ Cup races were held on the same course, Tepin didn’t earn favoritism in the Breeders’ Cup Mile and went off as the third betting choice behind two European invaders. Tepin sat close behind pacesetter Obviously early on and took command entering the stretch to win by 2 ¼ lengths over Mondialiste.
It was the second Breeders’ Cup victory for trainer Mark Casse, who had gotten his first the day before with Catch a Glimpse in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Casse had saddled 23 Breeders’ Cup starters since 1994, most of those coming since 2006. On the other end of the spectrum, Tepin was only the first Breeders’ Cup starter for her owner Robert Masterson.
2015 Breeders' Cup Mile
After the Breeders’ Cup, Tepin was given a break in Florida before starting her 5-year-old campaign. While she was preparing for her first start of the season, she was honored as champion turf female at the Eclipse Awards.
Tepin began 2016 with two starts at Tampa Bay Downs. She made easy work of five opponents in the Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes, but faced a sterner challenge in the Hillsborough Stakes.
Trying a tactic that almost worked, Isabella Sings took an 18-length lead on the Hillsborough field through a half-mile. Tepin remained five lengths back at the top of the stretch, but caught Isabella Sings in the final 50 yards to win by a length.
It was the last time that Tepin would be tested in the U.S. through the first half of 2016, as she returned to Keeneland to win the Jenny Wiley by five lengths. Tepin then repeated in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile, winning by 3 ½ lengths, before she took her show to the international stage.
Entering the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot’s elite summer meet, Tepin had a lot of support, but there were also some doubts that she could win the race, which was contested over a mile course with no turns. Tepin appeared confused early in the race, looking around and switching leads as the 13-horse field split into two groups. She stayed close to the leaders, though, and as the field bunched together again, Tepin surged ahead with a furlong remaining. Under strong urging from Leparoux, Tepin won the Queen Anne by a half-length against some of Europe’s best milers, becoming the first U.S.-based horse to win the prestigious race.
Tepin sat out the Saratoga meet this year, and in September took another international trip. This time it was to Woodbine in Canada, a track near and dear to trainer Casse’s heart as he has won multiple training titles there.
Tepin went off as the 2-to-5 favorite in the eight-horse Woodbine Mile, and she settled in fourth early on before moving up through the turn. Though there were a few nervous moments, Tepin kept her winning streak alive with a hard-fought, half-length win over Tower of Texas as Leparoux had to ask his mare for more than usual in the final strides.
2016 Woodbine Mile
Next up for Tepin is a title defense in the First Lady Stakes this Saturday at Keeneland, her last start before attempting to repeat in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
While her win in the Woodbine Mile was less impressive compared to Tepin’s other wins in North America, I’m not too worried. She was coming off of a three-month layoff, and her connections had said at times she wasn’t at her best when training, so it’s possible she just needed the race.
The good thing about Tepin is that she seems to run on any kind of turf. She hasn’t run at Santa Anita Park yet, but there are no signs in her past races indicating she’ll have trouble with what is usually a very firm turf course.
After examining the field of possible Breeders’ Cup Mile contenders currently listed on the event’s website, I think Tepin could have an easier time winning the Mile this year than she did last year. However, there are a few horses to be worried about.
Mondialiste, who might instead contest the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf, had a bit of a troubled trip in last year’s Mile against Tepin but came flying at the end. Tepin easily beat Mondialiste at Royal Ascot, but it’s well documented that he doesn’t like that course, so he could be a threat at Santa Anita.
Alice Springs, who just won her third Group 1 of the year in Europe, may also be pointed to the Mile and is in really good form right now. If she goes against Tepin, it will be the second time Alice Springs has raced against a Mark Casse-trained horse as the filly finished second to Catch a Glimpse in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last year.
While both of those horses are worthwhile contenders, if Tepin brings her “A” game it’s hard to see her losing. I think that the First Lady will tell us a lot about how she has come back from the Queen Anne, and if she is back at her best.
Tepin was the second consecutive Breeders’ Cup Mile winner for her sire, Bernstein, who also sired 2014 winner Karakontie. Bernstein is the sire of 85 stakes winners and six champions from multiple countries.
A $925,000 weanling purchase at Keeneland in 1997 Bernstein raced mostly in Europe and won two stakes races before starting his stud career in Kentucky at Buck Pond Farm. In 2005, he moved to Castleton Lyons and stood at that Lexington farm until his death in 2011. Other graded stakes winners sired by Bernstein include Dream Empress, Bern Identity, Big Band Sound, Bye Bye Bernie and Signature Red.
Tepin is out of the 15-year-old unraced mare Life Happened, whose four foals to race are all winners. Tepin is a half-sister to Vyjack, who was a major force on the New York Triple Crown Trail in 2013 and ran in the Kentucky Derby. Earlier this year, Vyjack won a one-mile allowance on the Keeneland turf course a few weeks after Tepin won the Jenny Wiley. Life Happened is also the dam of another horse partial to Keeneland in Prime Cut, also sired by Bernstein, who finished second in the 2011 Coolmore Lexington Stakes.
Life Happened is out of Round It Off, who is the dam of multiple graded stakes winner Disco Rico. The first four generations of Tepin’s family on her dam’s side include several other stakes winners, highlighted by graded stakes winner Miss Slewpy.
In all, while Tepin is definitely the most successful runner in her family, she comes from a long line of classy horses so her performance is not that surprising.
The Breeders’ Cup Mile will be held on Saturday, Nov. 5. If Tepin wins the race, she’ll join Miesque, Lure, Da Hoss, Goldikova and Wise Dan as horses who have won the Breeders’ Cup Mile more than once.