With her former owner from Bulgaria, her trainer based in Germany, and her two lifetime races having occurred in Italy, you could say Junia Tepzia has taken a rather unorthodox path to the Breeders’ Cup.
But the Irish-bred figures to be a major player in Friday’s running of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Now racing for a Team Valor syndicate and Hollywood producer Gary Barber, Junia Tepzia enters the contest undefeated. She ran very impressively in her prep, the Premio Coolmore Stakes at San Siro racetrack in Italy Oct. 3, defeating a field of 10 foes by better than three lengths.
The Rock of Gibraltar filly was purchased in an Irish yearling sale for the modest sum of 3,000 euros. Trained by Peter Schiergen in Germany, Junia Tepzia was sent to Italy to race because the purses are better. She broke her maiden at first asking in August. It was then that Barry Irwin of Team Valor, who has imported horses successfully from around the globe to North America, was contacted.
“I liked how she did it,” Irwin said of the maiden-breaking effort. "The low price she sold for has a tendency to turn you off, but we liked everything we saw of her, and we were able to buy her for a good price. She ended up getting a 105 Timeform rating in the stakes, which gave us the impetus to try the Breeders’ Cup with her. We’ve had horses with Schiergen before—we won a group III in Germany with Touch My Soul, who was also second in the Pucker Up at Arlington.”
The favorite in the Juvenile Fillies Turf figures to be Lillie Langtry, the Aidan O’Brien trainee whose best Timeform rating is a 106, further enhancing the qualifications of Junia Tepzia. Also, the hard, dry conditions in Italy should closely resemble the turf course at Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup.
Also enhancing the package is the presence of rider Kieren Fallon, especially important since Junia Tepzia drew the 11 post with a short run into the first turn of the one-mile race. Fallon has the choice of going for the lead or tucking her into a stalking position.
“Fallon is as good as any rider I’ve ever seen,” said Nick Ben-Meir, an entertainment manager who is a member of the Team Valor syndicate that owns Junia Tepzia. “He knows how to place a horse.
"This is a really nice filly with a terrific pedigree. Her dam, Marie Laurencin, is a half-sister to Footstepsinthesand. Nothing in the (Juvenile Fillies Turf) race stands out as somebody you’d be scared of. If she improves at all, she’ll be right there with this bunch.”