Coady Photography/Churchill Downs

Tepin Puts Polish on Royal Ascot Preparations

Noble Bird, World Approval also on busy Churchill worktab for trainer Mark Casse.

Champion Tepin put the final polish on her preparations for a trip to Royal Ascot the morning of June 3 at Churchill Downs, heading a busy worktab for trainer Mark Casse.

Under the supervision of Casse's son and head assistant Norm Casse, Robert Masterson's 5-year-old Bernstein mare clicked off the solid fractions that have become her trademark—getting splits of :12 2/5 and :24 1/5 under regular rider Julien Leparoux en route to a four-furlong time of :48 2/5 and a gallop out to five furlongs in 1:01 1/5.

"That was a pretty typical work for her. She's a real professional now, and real easy to gauge," Norm Casse said. "She just goes out there and does everything effortlessly. She's just in herself and does this with little effort.

"Julien was very excited about the way she went. With a horse like this, where you know her so well, you would just be worried if it wasn't her normal work—and it was her normal work. Any time she works like that she seems to run well, so she hasn't given me any reason to be concerned. She's doing extremely well and we're really humbled by the opportunity to be in a position to potentially win a big race like that. Representing our country is not something we're taking lightly. I feel like she's ready to run a really big race."

Tepin will depart for Royal Ascot, her target the June 14 Queen Anne (Eng-I) and her first battle with males since a win in November's Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT), the morning of June 7 via a Federal Express flight out of Indianapolis. First she will travel to Keeneland for quarantine June 6, where she will meet up with Maker's 46 Mile (gr. IT) winner Miss Temple City, slated for a run in the June 15 Duke of Cambridge Stakes (Eng-II). Norm Casse will travel the evening of June 6 and meet the champion racemare when she arrives the following day.

Tepin's record is perfect in four starts this year; a pair of victories at Tampa Bay Downs this winter in the Feb. 12 Endeavour (gr. IIIT) and the March 13 Hillsborough (gr. IIT), followed by decisive wins in the April 16 Jenny Wiley (gr. I) at Keeneland and May 7 Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile (gr. IIT). Following her attempt to achieve international greatness at Royal Ascot, her connections will look ahead to what they hope will be a successful fall campaign. 

"One of the appealing things about Ascot is that it gives her a race to shoot for and then coming back," Norm Casse said. "We knew we didn't really want to run her during the summer time, because of the heat and she doesn't seem to do as well. We'll look more for a fall campaign leading up to the Breeders' Cup—maybe the Woodbine Mile (Can-IT, Sept. 17) or something like that."

Also on the tab for Team Casse was recent Pimlico Special (gr. III) winner Noble Bird , who went a half-mile in :48 with Leparoux up. Noble Bird's first quarter-mile was timed in :23 4/5 before a gallop out to five furlongs in 1:01. The John Oxley-owned son of Birdstone  is likely to race in the $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) on the June 11 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) undercard instead of defending his title in the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill June 18. 

"Since he's gotten back from Pimlico, I've really paid a lot of attention to him," Norm Casse said. "I knew there was a decision to be made on whether to run in the Met Mile or Foster, so keeping an eye on his energy level and how he was doing was pretty paramount the last week.

"All indicators are that he's training just as good, if not better, since Pimlico. This work was extremely important this morning, and I thought he worked extremely well and did everything you look for in a horse that's getting ready to run in week. At this point we're leaning toward the Met Mile rather than Foster, given the opportunity to run a horse who is sitting on what we think could be a big effort for him."

Noble Bird aired by 11 1/4 lengths in the 1 3/16-mile Pimlico Special, a rebound off an eighth-place finish at Churchill in the Alysheba Stakes (gr. II).

"He seems to be doing as well as he's ever done," Casse said. "Leaving Pimlico, I had some reservations and thought the big race would have taken a little starch out of him, but it hasn't. If anything, we've been able to use that race to get him fitter. 

"Also, we really think the one-turn mile is going suit him. He's not a horse you can hold or try to rate. He's going to be able to come out of the gate and do what he likes to do. He probably won't be as forwardly placed because there will be more speed, but the one-turn mile should suit his running style a lot. He'll get to run his style of race, even though he'll be coming from out of it a little bit, and we actually think that will suit him better."

Noble Bird will be joined on the Belmont undercard by World Approval, who finished a game second to Divisidero in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) last time out. The Northern Afleet  runner went a half in :49 2/5 in company with Conquest Typhoon in preparation for the $1 million Manhattan (gr. IT) June 11.

"He's done extremely well since he last ran in the Woodford Reserve," Casse said. "He's come back with two brilliant, sensational works since the race. The mile-and-a-quarter distance at Belmont is the big question mark, but I think it's a question mark for everybody. He's a horse who always brings his 'A' game, and I and suspect he'll run a really big race."

Conquest Typhoon is targeting the $200,000 Wise Dan (gr. IIT) at Churchill June 18, and recieved the same time for his move. He comes off a fifth-place finish in the Longines Dixie (gr. IIT) at Pimlico last time out. 

"He kind of had a tough trip at Pimlico, but he's ready to go again," Casse said. "We're still looking for his breakout performance, but we think he's a talented horse and, given the right circumstances, can be a top-level turf horse."

Veteran Za Approval, a half-brother to World Approval, could also run in the Wise Dan. He comes off a tough-luck eighth in the Dixie and breezed a bullet in :46 1/5 the morning of June 3.

"Za worked real well," Casse said. "We were disappointed in his last effort. He didn't really like the yielding turf course, so we may be pointing to the Wise Dan."