Tepin wins Churchill Distaff Turf Mile

Tepin wins Churchill Distaff Turf Mile

Coady Photography/Churchill Downs

Tepin Tops Field of 14 for Queen Anne Stakes

The group I event at one mile helps kick off Royal Ascot meet June 14

Robert Masterson's Tepin will face 13 opponents from four different countries as Royal Ascot 2016 gets under way with a truly international renewal of the £600,000 Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I) June 14.

Trained by Mark Casse, last year's Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) winner seeks her seventh consecutive victory in a fixture that sets into motion the Royal Ascot meet, summer highlight of the European racing season. There will be eight group I races over five days of racing.

Tepin has been allocated stall 12 of 14 for the straight one-mile mile turf contest and is likely to encounter some give underfoot, with the going at Ascot currently rated good-to-soft with more showers in the forecast. She will, as usual, be partnered with Julien Leparoux, who is French-born but has been based in the United States throughout his riding career and will have his first ride in Europe.

Rated the 7-2 favorite by British bookmakers, the 5-year-old daughter of Bernstein will go up against two French-trained rivals, plus two more from Ireland and one from Japan, as wll as eight from Great Britain.

Norman Casse, the trainer's son and assistant, has been pleased with Tepin's demeanor since she arrived at her temporary home of David Lanigan's yard in Lambourn, Berkshire, the evening of June 7 following 25 hours in transit.

"She seems to be really well in herself and she has been eating and drinking as normal," he said. "It has helped that she has had a travel companion in Miss Temple City (a Graham Motion-trained filly who will run in the group II Duke Of Cambridge Stakes June 15) and they have become really good friends.

"We are very confident ahead of Tuesday's race. Ideally it would be firm ground, as that is a level playing field for everyone, but I am not apprehensive at all about the prospect of a yielding or soft surface. It was really, really soft when she won the First Lady (gr. IT) at Keeneland last October and she handled that very well."

The two French runners, Ervedya and Esoterique, both proved themselves Royal Ascot last year. Ervedya won the Coronation Stakes (Eng-I) while Esoterique chased home the exceptional Solow in a second-place finish in the Queen Anne.

The Irish pair is Endless Drama, who returned from a year-long absence with a highly encouraging third in the group I Lockinge Stakes at Newbury a month ago, and Cougar Mountain from the powerful Aidan O'Brien barn; he finished third in last year's Queen Anne.

Japan is represented by an outsider, A Shin Erwin, while the home team is led by Belardo, one of three runners, including a pacemaker, Barchan, to carry the royal blue colors of Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin stable.

The European champion 2-year-old of 2014, Belardo suffered a winless campaign last term but ended the season with a fine second to Solow at Ascot and confirmed his current well-being when he defeated Endless Drama in the Lockinge. He has excellent soft-ground form and will appreciate any further rainfall.

Miss Temple City, owned by Sagamore Farm, Allen Rosemblum, and The Club Racing, has 15 possible rivals in the £175,000 Duke Of Cambridge Stakes, also at the straight one mile. A close fourth behind Ervedya at Royal Ascot 12 months ago, she will be ridden for the first time by Ryan Moore, who won a record nine races at Royal Ascot in 2015.