Among the many hallmarks of two-time defending champion turf female Tepin is her ability to take whatever concerns her connections have about an upcoming goal and alleviate angst with her sheer ability. With her five-furlong move over the turf at Palm Meadows Training Center Feb. 1, the 6-year-old daughter of Bernstein again succeeded in sparking renewed hope that Plan 'A' can come off as scheduled.
Since her return to the worktab on Jan. 8, the goal has been for Robert Masterson's Tepin to make her seasonal bow in the Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes (G3T) at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 11 and use that race as a stepping stone towards a possible venture to the $6 million Dubai Turf (G1) in March. When wet weather in South Florida prompted trainer Mark Casse to push the bay mare's work back a few days this week, the likelihood of making the Endeavour— and with it the Dubai trip—took a hit.
After Tepin cranked out five-eighths in :59 4/5 in company Wednesday, Casse quipped "we may make that race after all."
"I was really happy with the way she worked and (jockey) Julien (Leparoux) was really happy with how she worked," said Norman Casse, son and top assistant to Mark, adding that he caught the champion mare going the last three eighths in :39 3/5 with a gallop out in :13 flat. "I'd say it's still 50-50 (to make the Endeavour). We're going to bring her back next Monday and try and work her again."
Should Tepin end up in the gate for the 1 1/16 miles Endeavour—a race she captured last year en route to winning six of eight starts during her latest championship campaign— Norman Casse cautions against expectations of that outing being an automatic addition to the win column.
"Even if she does make the Endeavour she certainly won't be 100% cranked up, so we need to tamper our expectations of how she will run," he said. "But with Dubai being the goal, she needs to make this race regardless. So we'll see how she works again next week.
"We'll stick with Plan 'A' until we've exhausted all possibilities there and then we'll go to Plan 'B'."
One alternative for Tepin if the Endeavour-Dubai double doesn't come off is a start in the Hillsborough Stakes (G2T) at Tampa Bay March 11, though Mark Casse said they could even look at a race at Gulfstream Park should they have to alter course.
The most heartening thing the Casse shedrow is seeing from the 2015 Breeders' Cup Mile (G1T) heroine is signs of the same competitive nature that allowed her to become the first North American horse to win the Queen Anne Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot last June. So long as that remains, everything else can fall into place around her.
"Last year bringing her to the race at Tampa off the layoff, we worked her alone and they were always slower works," Norman Casse said. "Though she got to work more often, I almost feel like she is getting herself ready better this time because we are working her in company and she's been more serious in her works.
"When you breeze her, you can tell she still has that competitive fire and desire. She loves being a racehorse, she loves training and breezing. So long as she wants to do that, we're going to keep her in training because that's what she loves to do."