At every point of call, Tepin gave her connections definitive signals of what she was capable of when she was feeling her very best. After providing trainer Mark Casse and owner Robert Masterson once-in-a-lifetime moments across the globe the last two seasons, the 6-year-old daughter of Bernstein let them known she was done with the racetrack portion of her storied career.
Tepin, the two-time defending champion turf female, has been retired, Casse announced April 18, bringing an end to a career that became the touchstone of greatness for all those associated with the fan-favorite mare.
Masterson's champion distaffer had not raced since her runner-up effort in the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1T) last November and she had only been in light training since missing her planned seasonal bow in the Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes (G3T) Feb. 11 due to a mild bout of colic.
Tepin's future was further evaluated when she refused to break off for a workout at Palm Meadows Training Center March 27. Though bright and happy since returning to her base at Churchill Downs, the 2015 Breeders' Cup Mile heroine wasn't showing the same competitive fire that allowed her to win grade/group 1 races in three different countries last season, including becoming the first North American-based horse to take the Queen Anne Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot last June.
"We just think she doesn't want to do it anymore. She's happy and healthy," Casse said Tuesday. "She just doesn't have the same desire to train, and we said all along if she showed that to us we would listen. We've given her the opportunity, we took her to Churchill, which definitely made her happy but... it's just time."
Casse added Tepin will not be bred this season, and there are no mating plans set yet for 2018.
Heeding Tepin's wishes has paid extraordinary dividends for all involved. Notoriously sweet in her personality, the bay mare still proved a bit of a challenge to get a handle on during her early development.
Before she became the "Queen of the Turf" with six grade/group 1 victories to her credit, Tepin was a graded stakes winner on dirt, having captured the 2013 Delta Downs Princess Stakes (G3) in her fourth start. After an eighth-place finish in the Miss Preakness Stakes the following May, Tepin was switched to the turf for the first time in the 2014 Regret Stakes (G3T)—but didn't hint at what was to come after having to steady sharply before coming home eighth.
She ended that year with another disappointing run in the Del Mar Oaks (G1T) but by her 4-year-old season she had a new partner in jockey Julien Leparoux, and a maturing mindset started to kick in. In her 2015 seasonal bow, she captured an allowance race over the Gulfstream Park turf by a length that was more impressive than it looked. Once she prevailed in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes (G2T) in gate-to-wire fashion that May, the Casse shedrow was quietly confident that top-level glory would be next on her agenda.
"I knew she was a nice filly because I remember when she was a 2-year-old, I was riding another nice filly for Mark at the time and I remember (assistant trainer) Norman (Casse) saying, 'You're going to have a tough choice between the two,' and I said, 'No, because I'm going to pick (Tepin)," Leparoux said. "She impressed me from Day One, and the way she won that day (at Gulfstream) was very impressive to me. The feeling I always had with her was a lot of confidence.
"When I would breeze her in the mornings, a couple times I was going easy in like :49, :50 and everyone was doubting her. That was actually when I knew she was doing really good, when I could get her to relax and go with whatever I wanted to do. Even though we were going slow, she always felt very powerful doing it."
Lost in the brilliant whirlwind that was American Pharoah 's Triple Crown-clinching triumph in the 2015 Belmont Stakes (G1) was Tepin's emergence that day as one of the most fearsome milers of either sex. Following her score in the Longines Just a Game Stakes (G1T) on the Belmont Park undercard, Tepin would rebound from a pair of narrow beats at Saratoga Race Course to close out her season with victories in the First Lady Stakes (G1T) and Breeders' Cup Mile en route to becoming Casse's first Eclipse Award champion.
"We've always kind of joked around like when a horse breezes good, I've always kind of put it on the chart or told Dad 'This could be a life-changing horse.' But she truly was a life-changing horse," said Norman Casse, son and top assistant to Mark Casse and the day-to-day overseer of Tepin's development. "She just made us believe in ourselves and took Casse Racing to another level. She provided confidence in all of us.
"The first time she worked from the gate was one of the more incredible works I've ever witnessed. She taught us if a horse is showing us how talented they are in the mornings, you just have to figure out what their niche is. That was her. It was a matter of figuring out what the right surface and distance was, figuring out the way she wanted to train. And she rewarded us."
Impressive as she was at the end of her 4-year-old season, Tepin showed last year she had only scratched the surface of her potential. After rattling off four straight graded stakes wins from February to May—including a five-length triumph in the grade 1 Coolmore Jenny Wiley Stakes—Tepin took her show overseas and brought her connections to their emotional knees when she rated patiently off the early going before striking the front a half-furlong from the finish en route to a half-length victory in the Queen Anne Stakes over a rain-drenched Ascot course.
"I don't even know what to say. It's been a dream, really," Mark Casse said. "Royal Ascot seems like a dream and then for her to win two Eclipse Awards, what a ride it has been. And Mr. Masterson needs to be applauded, because a lot of owners would have retired her after her 4-year-old year."
Tepin's final triumph came when she bested males rivals once more in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile Stakes (G1T) last September—an effort that defined her widespread appeal as the grandstand chanted her name upon her return to the winner's circle. Though she suffered defeats in the First Lady Stakes and 2016 Breeders' Cup Mile, her body of work of six wins from eight starts was enough to earn her a second Eclipse Award for champion turf female.
"What a joy this mare's been," said Masterson as he accepted Tepin's second piece of year-end hardware. "The only thing she wants in return is a peppermint."
Bred in Kentucky by Machmer Hall, Tepin retires with 13 wins from 23 starts and $4,437,918 in earnings. For the time being, she will remain in her spot in the first stall in the Casse Racing barn at Churchill before likely heading to Denali Stud.
Her presence in the hearts and minds of those who adored her most is something that will remain steadfast.
"She has a special place in my heart for sure, she's amazing," Leparoux said. "Everybody is sad because weren't not going to see her every day. But we're happy for her too. It's time for her retire and at least she retired being happy and without anything to prove.
"She goes out as the champion that she is."