Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux doesn't get many calls from trainer Todd Pletcher, but when he does, he takes the mount.
And so it was that Desormeaux found himself speeding out to the early lead in the $400,000 First Lady (gr. IT) Oct. 8 at Keeneland aboard Photo Call, opening a 10-length margin, and leaving champion Tepin with too much work to do in her title defense.
"Todd told me to cover her up, but that was not going to happen," Desormeaux said, and the audible worked out.
On a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon before a crowd of 28,101—on a day when all-sources wagering on the 10-race card reached $15,926,396 to surpass the previous Fall Stars Saturday record of $14,135,204 from Oct. 6, 2007—29-1 shot Photo Call stole the one-mile First Lady by 2 3/4 lengths and left 2-5 favoite Tepin in her wake.
It was the first time since August of 2015 that the Mark Casse-trained Tepin was beaten, snapping an eight-race win streak for the mare who trounced males in her past two starts and concluded her 2015 season with a win in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT).
"We didn't want her to run her 'A' race today," assistant trainer Norm Casse said. "The goal is the Breeders' Cup Mile. I haven't lost any confidence in her. I think this will set her up and she'll move forward from this race."
Photo Call took the lead shortly after the break and set uncontested fractions of :24.10 and :47.29 as Tepin raced in the clear in tandem with grade I winner Celestine. The eventual winner was 10 lengths on top at the quarter pole, with Tepin's rally too little too late as Photo Call completed the mile on a firm turf course in 1:35.62.
"At the top of the lane you could just tell that horse had too much of a lead," Casse went on. "She kicked away. She beat another really good horse today. Bill Mott's horse (Celestine). ... We handled her and put her away. The winner just got away from us. That's all it is. It's horse racing. If anything, it relieves a little bit of pressure heading into the Breeders' Cup Mile. I don't think she ran disrespectful today. She ran a good race, the other horse just had a better trip and things went her way."
Turned back to a mile for the first time since July of 2015, Photo Call returned to victory for Teresa Viola Racing Stables with a look four starts back to April, when she won the Orchid Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park. As a 4-year-old trained by Graham Motion for Mrs. P. K. Cooper, the daughter of Galileo took the Rodeo Drive (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Park. She was a $3 million purchase from Keeneland's 2015 November breeding stock sale days after running fifth in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr. IT).
The victory increased Photo Call's bankroll to $827,102 with a record of 6-3-4 from 21 starts.
Photo Call returned $61.40, $10.60, and $5.60. Tepin paid $2.20 and $2.40. Celestine ($2.40) completed the trifecta and was followed home by Nemoralia, She's Not Here, Cash Control, Onus, Now Or Never, Secret Someone, and Mississippi Delta.