Tepid Tepin Hot Favorite for Breeders Cup Mile

Julien LeparouxTepin proved that there is no such thing as a certainty in horse racing when she was beaten on Saturday (October 8) in the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes at Keeneland but she still remains favorite for the Breeders Cup Mile.

She started as the 2/5 favorite but her jockey Julien Leparoux (pictured) allowed unfancied Photo Call to get so far ahead that Tepin was unable to reel her in on the stretch. Tepin rallied well but was beaten almost three lengths by the 29/1 shot Photo Call, trained by Todd Pletcher.

Photo Call was at least 10 lengths clear at the quarter pole and never looked likely to get beaten. Leparoux and every other jockey in the pack probably realized at that point that they had underestimated the ability of the leader and ridden stinkers.

Kent Desormeaux was having his first ride on Photo Call but must have known that she could be trusted to keep galloping to the wire. This five-year daughter of Galileo was turning back to a mile for the first time in more than a year and had form that showed she was no slouch.

Photo Call’s best performance came after she was moved to the USA from Ireland. She won the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive run over a mile and a quarter in September 2015 when she was trained by Graham Motion for Mrs P K Cooper.

In February Photo Call moved to Pletcher’s barn for Teresa Viola Racing. Photo Call won once for her new connections but had been pretty disappointing in her most recent three runs over longer distances.

After her unexpected win Desormeaux admitted that Pletcher had told him to ride a hold-up race but that the horse was too free and so he allowed her to go on. Drawn wide in gate 10 Photo Call soon took the lead and seemed to enjoy setting the pace, posting uncontested fractions of 24.10 and 47.29. Desormeaux did not use his whip, pushing her to the line with his hands and heels in a time of 1 minute 35.62 seconds on the firm ground.

The second favorite, the Grade 1 winner Celestine trained by Bill Mott, finished third beaten six lengths. The UK-trained three-year-old filly Nemoralia finished three lengths further back in fourth with She’s Not Here close behind her in fifth.

Pletcher was delighted that Photo Call had stolen the race in style. Tepin’s trainer Mark Casse must have been very disappointed that his star had been beaten for the first time in over a year. The First Lady ended her impressive winning streak that included top level victories against males not only in the Breeders’ Cup but in yielding conditions that she hated at Royal Ascot, England in June.

Ironically Casse had chosen to run her in the First Lady as it looked an easier race for her than taking on males in the Shadwell Turf an hour later at Keeneland. He understandably did not want the mare to have a hard race so close to her Breeders’ Cup title defense.

Assistant trainer Norm Casse was philosophical after Tepin’s defeat. He could see that Photo Call had slipped the field at the top of the lane and had kicked away but was encouraged that Tepin had beat a top horse in Celestine. He even had a positive spin on the result saying that it takes off the pressure with the Breeders Cup next on the agenda. That may be true for him but Tepin is still the strong Breeders’ Cup Mile favorite.

In the next race, the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, Tepin’s stablemate Classic Empire started as the favorite. This talented two-year-old son of Pioneerof The Nile had been the favorite in the Hopeful betting at Saratoga too but swerved dramatically after leaving the stalls, throwing Irad Ortiz into the dirt. This time he broke well from the gates for Leparoux and took the lead by the two pole. Classic Empire drew clear from the pack in the stretch, crossing the wire three lengths ahead of Lookin At Lee.

On Sunday David Carroll, Casse’s assistant, reported that Classic Empire was a bit ‘tired but good’. He will be pointed at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile joining Casse’s string at Churchill Downs. Tepin was said to be ‘doing great’ on Sunday too and will be heading to the same destination to prepare for her title defense.

The First Lady was not the only race at Keeneland to provide a shock for bettors. Graham Motion’s Miss Temple City, a four-year-old filly, was the surprise winner of the Shadwell Turf Mile, narrowly beating the joint favorite, Claude McGaughey’s Ironicus a head. The Bill Mott-trained Tourist was third with the Arlington Million winner Mondialiste a length further back in fourth.

Ironically Miss Temple City had been trying to avoid racing against Tepin so Motion had chosen the Shadwell rather than the First Lady for her.  It was not the first time that Miss Temple City had been asked to race in a Grade 1 against males rather than take on Tepin.

In April she was successful when taking on the colts in the Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland. She beat Brian Lynch’s Heart To Heart by just over a length and had the favorite a length further back in third, Tourist.

For patriotic bettors seeking a bit of usa online betting value for the Breeders Cup Mile, Tepin still heads the odds at around 2/1 favorite. Mondialiste (second to her in the race last year) is around 20/1, the same odds as Miss Temple City.  The sportsbooks must regard Tepin’s recent setback as an aberration because her conqueror Photo Call is relatively ignored out at 16/1.

Irish-trained Alice Springs is second favorite at around 4/1 while a few other European hopefuls are flirting with single-figure odds, notably improving Ribchester. He and his trainer, Richard Fahey, will be names unfamiliar to many U.S. race fans but Ribchester won a Group 1 in France last time, never runs a bad race and possesses the profile of an improver.

If Tepin turns up with her A game at Santa Anita then she should be near impossible to beat, but her latest performance might help swell the field as it demonstrates that she is not a machine, well not every time.