After beating the boys last time out in the Oct. 31 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT), the 5-year-old Bernstein mare handled her own division Feb. 13 with exactly the kind of dominance trainer Mark Casse was seeking in her season debut.
"That is what is so great about her," Casse said. "Julien can kind of do whatever he needs to do... and if they are running slow, she'll relax. You're always nervous coming back, but she's back."
Bigger things lie ahead for Tepin in 2016, including a rematch with males in the Maker's 46 Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland. The goal was to simply get things started in the 1 1/16-mile Endeavour, but as in her last two starts of 2015, the talented bay mare put on a show.
Rated by regular rider Julien Leparoux into a good stalking spot second behind the lead of 28-1 shot Lovely Loyree, Tepin relaxed well as the perfect scenario developed for her return. The bay mare tracked the easy :24.19 and :50.17 opening fractions by about three-quarters of a length, and was given the cue to go after three-quarters in 1:14.84. She responded with a powerful outside move and kicked clear through a 1:37.51 mile to win by 3 1/2 lengths in a final time of 1:42.91.
"It was a perfect scenario for her comeback race," Leparoux said. "They went slow the first part, which was great, and she relaxed beautiful and finished up strong. There is nothing much I can say except that was perfect. She's got a big heart and she had a great kick at the end."
Off the 1-5 favorite in a field of six, Tepin returned $2.60, $2.10, and $2.10. Lady Lara followed her from third to gain the place ($3.40, $2.60), while Lovely Loyree held to show ($4.20). Photo Call, Bureau de Change, and Lexie Lou completed the order of finish. Partisan Politics scratched.
"I've had a lot of graded horses, but this one, she's a champion and she is just special," Masterson said. "We know her so well—when they let her go out in (50.17 for the half-mile)... you're not going to catch her down the lane. She is just too fast."
Bred in Kentucky by Machmer Hall out of the Stravinsky mare Life Happened, Tepin built a three-race win streak with the Endeavour score added to her Breeders' Cup Mile and First Lady (gr. IT) wins at Keeneland. Her overall record stands at 8-3-1 from 16 starts for earnings of $2,565,973. She was a $140,000 purchase by Masterson from Machmer's Select Sales consignment to the Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga 2012 select yearling sale.
Tepin's dam, a $750,000 buy for Solis & Litt on behalf of LNJ Foxwoods from Machmer Hall at the 2014 Keeneland January horses of all ages sale, will be bred to War Front this season. Although her 2015 Into Mischief foal died, a Harlan's Holiday colt she was carrying when purchased by LNJ Foxwoods is now in training with Eddie Woods in Florida.
"Nothing's better than having someone else run well and it benefits you, and you don't have to pay the bills," Jason Litt said candidly. "There's a great feeling about sitting back and watching Tepin run. It's pretty exciting and the Harlan's Holiday is a very nice colt. We'll go down there in March and watch him train and get an idea of what he might want to be or where he might want to fit. He's been good so far."
The ultimate objective remains a return to the Breeders' Cup for Tepin, the Eclipse Award-winning outstanding female turf horse of 2015. But Casse confirmed the April 15 Maker's 46 as her first major target.
"The ultimate goal is the Breeders' Cup at the end of the year, but our first major goal with her is the Maker's 46 Mile at Keeneland (April 15)," he said. "She kind of likes Keeneland. That will be against the boys, so I think we'll try them again."