The Mark Casse trainee broke a mark that stood at the Lexington oval for 20 years when she took the 1 1/16-mile test in a stakes-record time of 1:40.53 on firm turf.
"Mr. Masterson—if it wasn't for him, everybody wouldn't get to see the great Tepin," Casse said. "He wanted to let her run another year (rather than being retired). It puts a little pressure on us. I love it, but I just don't want to let her down."
Tepin's win came before a Saturday afternoon crowd of 38,863, the third-largest non-Breeders' Cup mark at Keeneland. The record of 40,617 was established on Toyota Blue Grass Day on April 14, 2012, with the second-largest (39,722) coming on April 12, 2014, also a Toyota Blue Grass Day.
It was the first start at Keeneland for Tepin since her triumph over males in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) in the fall, her third Keeneland grade I, and fifth straight graded stakes score. The victory also gave jockey Julien Leparoux his 50th Keeneland stakes win, ranking him fifth in history behind Pat Day (95), Jerry Baily (54), Shane Sellers (53), and Robby Albarado (51).
"Every time you ask her to do something, she does even better," Leparoux said of Tepin, the 2-5 favorite in a field of nine. "It makes my job easier. She can do whatever we want. I didn't think there was going to be that much pace today, so I was planning on sitting second. But when I saw (other horses) going (to the lead), I just sat back there. On the backside, she started to get going. She's amazing."
Tepin stalked third on the outside, behind 61-1 pacesetter She's Not Here, who went out to take over from 37-1 shot Illuminant after a first quarter in :23.39. The half went in :46.89 and three-quarters in 1:11.04, as Tepin loomed under Leparoux's hold. Given the signal to close, she took over command entering the lane and kicked clear of the field through a 1:34.52 mile.
Wekeela closed to get second at odds of 9-1 under Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, making her first start in the U.S. for owner Martin Schwartz and trainer Chad Brown.
"Tepin was awesome (and) my filly was awesome in her first performance in America," Stevens said. "(She) completely missed the break. She was just in there enjoying all the scenery and kinda clued me in that she wasn't going to break well, like most French horses. So my plan got thrown out the door. I was gonna sit right behind Julien and see if I could outkick her. Let's face it: I wasn't going to beat her whether I got away good today or not, but I could have given (my filly) a much easier race. (Wekeela) is a quality filly and she'll win her share of grade Is."
Tepin returned $2.80, $2.40, and $2.10, Wekeela paid $5 and $4.40, and Illuminant held third ($5.80 to show) to complete a $128.40 trifecta. Dacita, Recepta, Tiger Ride, She's Not Here, Itsonlyactingdad, and Akatea completed the order of finish.
While a start in the June 14 Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot is on the docket for Tepin, Casse said the May 7 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes (gr. IIT), a race Tepin won in 2015, is something the connections will "definitely think about." The Sept. 17 Ricoh Woodbine Mile (gr. IT) could also be a future target for the outstanding turf female of 2015.
Tepin was bred in Kentucky by Machmer Hall out of the Stravinsky mare Life Happened, and was a $140,000 purchase by Masterson from Machmer's Select Sales consignment to the Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga 2012 select yearling sale. She improved her record to 10-3-1 from 18 starts, for earnings of $2,895,973.