Robert Masterson's Tepin won her third turf race in a row and second straight graded event with a half-length victory in the $700,000 Just a Game Stakes (gr. IT) June 6 at Belmont Park (VIDEO).
The 4-year-old daughter of Bernstein tracked dueling early leaders Discreet Marq and Coffee Clique, who set opening fractions of :24.87, :49.44, and 1:12.57 through six furlongs, then challenged for the lead three wide exiting the turn.
The Mark Casse trainee passed Discreet Marq, who had pulled away momentarily at the top of the stretch, then held off a drive from closing Filimbi to finish the mile grass test in 1:35.65 under Julien Leparoux and claim her first grade I score over a turf course rated good.
"We broke good, but we were outside, so I let the two horses in front just go ahead and then settled in third on the outside in the clear," Leparoux said. "She's got a big heart. Every time I asked her, she was going and she fought to the end. She kept digging and digging."
Filimbi and jockey Joel Rosario, who sat in fourth and fifth through most of the race, ran into a wall of horses exiting the turn and surged once she found space to the outside, but it wasn't enough to surpass the winner.
"I could have moved a little sooner, but I had to wait on the turn," Rosario said. "When she finally got rolling, she gave me a very good run."
Off at 9-2, the winner paid $11.20, $6.40, and $4.40. Filimbi brought $7.60 and $5.20, while Discreet Marq delivered $5.40 to show.
Tepin was bred in Kentucky by Machmer Hall out of the Stravinsky mare Life Happened. Her earnings now sit at $955,973 and she has a record of 5-1-1 from 11 career starts.
"When you win a grade I in front of a Belmont Day crowd, it's pretty exciting," Casse said.