No matter which direction one looked in the aftermath of the $2 million Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT)—be it towards the crew surrounding the bay mare with neck slaps and nose kisses or at the son of a Hall of Fame trainer with his arm around his friend and fellow assistant—the eyes told a story of shock and pride.
While his words were carefully composed, the look on trainer Mark Casse's face said it all, as he tried to explain how defending race winner and reigning champion turf female Tepin ended up with a second-best outcome for a second straight time. And as animated as Riley Mott and Rudolph Brisset were as they watched Tourist return from his upset, half-length win, no amount of hugs and gestures were as poignant as their gazes.
"I thought I saw some tears in their eyes when they came to the winner's circle," trainer Bill Mott said of his jubilant son and longtime assistant.
What they all saw at Santa Anita Park Nov. 5 was an outcome that caught more than one off guard, as 12-1 Tourist used a ground-saving trip under jockey Joel Rosario to hold off the Casse-trained Tepin, denying the 5-year-old daughter of Bernstein a repeat triumph in the eight-furlong test.
Tourist covered the mile on a firm turf course in 1:31.71, breaking the Breeders’ Cup record of 1:31.78 set by Wise Dan at Santa Anita in 2013.
For Robert Masterson's Tepin, it was a bittersweet cap to a year that saw her travel the globe to establish her dominance. After capturing the 2015 Breeders' Cup Mile en route to becoming the first Eclipse Award winner for Casse, the bay mare looked untouchable for most of 2016, no more so than when she became the first North American-based horse to win the Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot June 14.
Though she followed that historic win with another triumph over males in the Sept. 17 Ricoh Woodbine Mile (Can-IT), the toll of winning grade and group I wins in three countries this season was discussed after she finished second to fellow Mile entrant Photo Call in the First Lady Stakes (gr. IT) at Keeneland Oct. 8.
Tepin responded by bringing every inch of her class to the Mile, rating in an outside path in seventh, with Tourist just ahead of her in the inside lane as What a View set a brutal pace of :21.81 and :44.61 through a half-mile on the front end. She responded with her trademark surge when jockey Julien Leparoux swung her out four-wide in the lane, but it was Tourist with the answer of his career as he notched his second grade I victory.
"You know this filly has been so good for so long and I had to hear so much about what we had done and how she had gotten beat," Casse said. "Today was her goal and she just came up a touch short. But we're going to go away with our heads held high. She's a tremendous racehorse. I thought she trained the last couple weeks as good as I've ever seen her train."
The same could be said of Tourist, the striking 5-year-old son of Tiznow who had been knocking on the door of top-level success for multiple seasons before breaking through in the Aug. 20 Fourstardave Handicap (gr. IT) at Saratoga Race Course.
His first two tries in the Breeders' Cup Mile were forgettable, a 13th-place finish in 2013 and an eighth-place run last year. Since being defeated by Tepin in the 2015 Mile, Tourist had been ultra consistent, hitting the board in four of five starts coming into Saturday's test, including a third-place effort in the Oct. 8 Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland, where he was beaten just a half-length.
"When we came in, we felt like we were really live, and felt like he was one of the horses to beat," said Elliott Walden, president of WinStar Farm, which bred Tourist and co-owns him in partnership with Wachtel Stable and Gary Barber. "You look at it and think you could run this race 10 times and you might have five different winners. So we're just blessed to get the job done. (Mott) has done a great job, been very patient with him through a couple little bumps in the road, ... and the culmination is the Breeders' Cup Mile in 1:31 and change. It's just an awesome feeling. Very, very classy horse."
Tourist stamped his class as he darted between a tiring What a View and eventual third-place finisher Midnight Storm in the stretch en route to earning his sixth win in what could be his 18th and final start.
"When you win a race like that against the best milers in the world, and he's 5 years old, he'll probably go to stud," Walden said, to which Mott playfully replied, "Come on. The horse is just getting warmed up."
If the Mile is Tourist's final act, it may not be so for Tepin. Until her loss in the First Lady, she had reeled off eight consecutive wins.
As long as she continues to act like a mare who wants to do more, Casse says his team will likely oblige their stable star.
"You know, (son and top assistant) Norman (Casse) came up and said 'Dad, what a hell of a year it's been,'" Casse said. "I'm just so proud of everybody and I'm so proud of Tepin. She ran a hell of a race and ... as long as she's happy and healthy, she could run some more."