It was business as usual for Robert Masterson's Tepin the morning of Oct. 22—which meant her connections could breathe a tiny sigh of relief.
In her first serious move since having her eight-race win streak snapped in the Oct. 8 First Lady Stakes (gr. IT) at Keeneland, the reigning champion turf female signaled she was "back to her normal self" according to trainer Mark Casse when she drilled four furlongs in :48 2/5 over the main track at Churchill Downs in company with 2-year-old stablemate Keep Quiet.
Casse readily admits his nerves are always high where Tepin is concerned, and this particular move carried extra weight given it was her first major outing since running second to front-running Photo Call in the First Lady. With jockey Julien Leparoux in the irons, the 5-year-old daughter of Bernstein got her competitive juices firing, staying on even terms down the lane and finishing up about a head in front of her stablemate to her inside as she readies for a title defense in the Nov. 5 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Park.
According to the watch of assistant trainer Norm Casse, Tepin galloped out in 1:00 4/5 and 1:14 1/5 and came home the last three-eigths in :32 2/5.
"I thought she worked extremely well," Mark Casse said. "We gave her a little company and she was on the bit and moving well. We wanted her to do a little something today, not a lot but a little, and I thought it was an 'A' work for sure."
Added Leparoux, "She went pretty easy. She came back very good from (the First Lady). That was a race that just didn't work out for us the way it went. But everytime I get on her, it's something speical."
Tepin was wheeling back in the First Lady just three weeks after her win in the Sept. 17 Ricoh Woodbine Mile (Can-IT), the latter of which was her first start since becoming the first American horse to win the the June 14 Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-IT) at Royal Ascot. Casse gave full credit to Photo Call stealing her way to victory on the front end in the First Lady, but still feels his stable star got everything she needed out of the effort to ready herself for the Breeders' Cup.
"We knew coming back in three weeks would be difficult for her. Did we still think she would win? Of course," Casse said. "But Photo Call freaked. And I still thought Tepin ran extremely well. I was okay (with the loss). Our objective is to win the Breeders' Cup and we feel we gave her her best shot to win the Breeders' Cup. We're confident."
Tepin and the rest of the Casse Breeders' Cup contingent are slated to have their final works at Churchill Oct. 28 and ship to California Oct. 31.
Keep Quiet, winner of the Oct. 9 Dixiana Bourbon Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland, more than held his own against his champion stablemate and will be on that California flight as a leading contender for the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT). The son of Elusive City was also clocked in :48 2/5.
"I thought he struggled pretty good with the Keeneland turf course the other day and he was still able to win," Casse said.
The grin on Leparoux's face after he hopped off Tepin was even more promient the following set after he worked Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) winner Classic Empire five furlongs in 1:01 3/5 in company with fellow John Oxley-owned Sky Flight. Breaking off well behind his stablemate, Classic Empire swallowed up Sky Flight to his inside in the lane with a big gallop out of 1:15 2/5 in his preparation for the Nov. 5 Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I).
"The thing that stands out most to me about him—and I'm the one who comes up with who he works with - is I've run out of potential horses in our barn to work him with," Norm Casse said. "I've tried to put him with older horses. We like our horses to work head to head and gallop out together, and the last four times this horse has worked, we've worked him with older horses. And he has completely decimated them."
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IT) contender Victory to Victory, winner of the Sept. 18 Natalma Stakes (Can-IT) at Woodbine, also turned in her penultimate move in advance of shipping to California, working five furlongs in 1:01 2/5 over the Churchill main track under jockey Florent Geroux.