Nothing has come easy for Miss Temple City this season, from the path leading to her ambitious seasonal debut to the end results she posted. It was fitting in that sense that the stretch run of the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf Stakes (G3T) proved another taxing test for the massive dark bay mare, as pacesetter Zipessa was stubbornly holding strong to her front-end exploits.
Unlike her previous battles this year, the daughter of Temple City wouldn't let the one-mile test Sept. 9 end up as a mark against her. Unleashing the grit that has powered her to three top-level triumphs, Miss Temple City wore down Zipessa with a determined drive in mid-stretch to capture the $350,000 Ladies Turf Stakes by a neck and put herself back on track for her year-end goals.
Miss Temple City's powerful frame has not graced a winner's circle since the Graham Motion trainee won the Dec. 4 Matriarch Stakes (G1) at Del Mar—her third grade 1 victory of 2016. She rightfully carried some massive expectations into her 5-year-old season, but the road got rocky when she missed a bit of training time after getting loose at Palm Meadows Training Center in March, returned with some filling in a leg, and then was scratched out of two planned starts due to rain-soaked turf.
After finishing 13th during her seasonal debut, the Queen Anne Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot in June, Miss Temple City returned stateside to run a disappointing third in the July 30 WinStar Matchmaker Stakes (G3T) at Monmouth Park. But her connections believed the mare who often dwarfs her rivals in size could still overwhelm them with her ability.
"That was the idea after the Ascot race, to find an easier spot (at Monmouth), which I think we did. In hindsight it was a little too far (1 1/8 miles) for her condition at that time," said Bob Feld, who bred Miss Temple City and co-owns her as part of The Club Racing, along with Sagamore Farm and Needle In A Haystack. "I don't think she got a real good prep out of the Ascot race, because she kind of stopped on us at the three-quarters. Going into that race, to go a mile and an eighth, I think that's why she didn't punch it in.
"And that was our theory coming into this race. This is third race off the layoff (and a) flat mile. We thought this race was hers to lose."
The betting public shared the same sentiment, sending Miss Temple City off as the even-money favorite in the six-horse field. With regular rider Edgar Prado up, she settled into the two-path in second, with graded stakes winner Linda to her inside, as Zipessa held a two-length lead going up the hill over the unique Kentucky Downs course through fractions of :26.42 and :48.96.
Miss Temple City advanced to take Zipessa on at the head of the lane, but the latter was still bravely holding to the lead as Linda tried to rally on the inside and the big dark bay shadow crept up on the outside.
"She didn't want to get beat today," said Joe Bravo, jockey of Zipessa. "She fought hard and she wanted to win. I give all credit. That horse is a nice horse of Graham's. Two good horses matched up, and let the fireworks begin."
With Prado going to the whip, Miss Temple City eventually edged her way to the front to cover the distance in 1:36.91. Zipessa held for second, with Linda getting show honors over Beauly in fourth. Susie Bee and Seeking Paradise completed the order of finish.
"I'm always nervous when I run her," Motion said. "Obviously I'm very attached to her and just want to see her run well. Look, it's relief. You get much more nervous about these deals when you're a favorite. And it's a filly we're all obviously really attached to.
"Not that you don't get attached to all of them, but she's the best filly I ever trained. There's a lot more riding on it, and I'm just glad it worked out. It couldn't have worked out better today."
Motion added that Miss Temple City would likely make her next start at Keeneland, either in the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes (G1T)—where she bested males last year—or against her own sex in the First Lady Stakes (G1T) in hopes of getting her set for a start in the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup Mile (G1T)
Miss Temple City paid $3.60, $2.80, and $2.10 across the board and improved her record to seven wins from 19 starts with earnings of $1,677,868. She is out of the Artax mare Glittering Tax.