Robert Masterson’s 2015 Champion Female Turf Horse Tepin registered her final local workout in advance of an international engagement in the June 14 Queen Anne (Group 1) at England’s Royal Ascot with a half-mile breeze in :48.40 under regular rider Julien Leparoux on Saturday morning at Churchill Downs.
Assistant trainer Norman Casse described the move as a “typical work for her.” Churchill Downs clockers caught the daughter of Bernstein in fractions of :12.40 and :24.20 before she galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.20.
“She was moving really well,” Casse said. “She seems really happy cooling out and we’re real excited to have this opportunity to do something that could be really special. She just goes out there and does everything effortlessly. She’s just in herself and does this with little effort.
“Julien (Leparoux) was very excited about the way she went. With a horse like this where you know her so well, you would just be worried if it wasn’t her normal work and it was her normal work. Any time she works like that she seems to run well so she hasn’t given me any reason to be concerned.”
Tepin’s 5-year-old campaign is unblemished in four starts this year, punching a pair of victories at Tampa Bay Downs this winter in the Feb. 12 Endeavour (GIII) and the March 13 Hillsborough (GII) that were followed by decisive wins in the April 16 Jenny Wiley (GI) at Keeneland and May 7 Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile (GII).
Following Tepin’s attempt to achieve international greatness at Royal Ascot, Casse will look ahead to what he hopes will be a successful fall campaign.
“One of the appealing things about Ascot is that it gives her a race to shoot for and then coming back,” Casse said. “We knew we didn’t really want to run her during the summer time because of the heat and she doesn’t seem to do as well. We’ll look more for a fall campaign leading up to the Breeders’ Cup – maybe the ($1 million) Woodbine Mile (GI on Sept. 17) or something like that.”
Tepin will be out of her element when she ships overseas to Royal Ascot. While Casse admits this to be his biggest concern, he has faith that his champion mare has what it takes to handle it well.
“She’s got to train in a yard and she’ll have to acclimate to a different time zone,” Casse said. “It’s those types of things that we can’t control but at the same time we got to do it. A lot of our success is based on preparation and getting into a groove and doing things and doing the right things over and over again. You can’t really do that over there; there are a lot of variables that you can’t control and a lot of things that are going to be different for her. We’ll have to do things different with her and I just hope it doesn’t overwhelm her.
“I think that Tepin is a horse that is very intelligent and seems to take everything with good stride, so she gives me a lot of confidence in that regard. I think she’ll be able to handle it. She’s not worried about those types of things.”
Casse is looking forward to travelling to Royal Ascot, which will be his first trip to the historic track.
“To be a part of a special race and a special race meet is awesome – it’s an awesome opportunity,” Casse said. “But also to see different countries is something that we’re all really looking forward to.”
Tepin is scheduled to leave Churchill Downs for quarantine on Monday, and will ship to Royal Ascot the following morning.
NOBLE BIRD BREEZES, LEANING TOWARD MET MILE – Also on Friday’s work tab for Casse was Pimlico Special (GIII) winner Noble Bird, who went a half-mile in :48 with Leparoux up. Noble Bird’s first quarter mile was timed in :23.80 before galloping out in 1:01. The John Oxley-owned son of Birdstone is more likely to race in the $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap (GI) on the June 11 Belmont Stakes undercard rather than defend his title in the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap(GI) on June 18.
“I would say we’re leaning toward the Met Mile,” Casse said. “He’s already won the Stephen Foster and it’d be really neat to win the Met Mile with him. It was a pretty important work for him today and we’re trying to gauge whether to run in the Met Mile or Stephen Foster so I was really watching him pretty intently since he just ran. Everything is indicating that he’s doing well if not better than before the Pimlico Special.”
Should he opt to race in the Met Mile, Noble Bird would be shortening up from the Pimlico Special’s distance of 1 3/16 miles.
“We think it would suit him better because he’s kind of a free-running horse,” Casse said. “We’ve decided that we’re not going to try and rate him anymore. When you cut him back to a mile, he’ll be with horses that he can’t keep up with so he’ll get to run his style race even though he’ll be coming from out of it a little bit and we actually think that will suit him better.”
MORE CASSE BREEZES – Half-brothers World Approval and Za Approval, both owned by Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation, also put in works for Casse on Friday morning. A game second to Divisidero in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) last time out, World Approval went a half-mile in :49.40 in preparation for the $1 million Manhattan (GI) on the June 11 Belmont Stakes undercard.
“He’s done extremely well since he last ran in the Woodford Reserve,” Casse said. “He’s come back with two brilliant, sensational works since the race. The mile-and-a-quarter distance at Belmont is the big question mark but I think it’s a question mark for everybody. All I know is the horse is doing really well and will run a big race.”
A well-beaten eighth in the Dixie (GII) at Pimlico last time out, 8-year-old veteran Za Approval, who finished third behind two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI), is possible to target his former opponent’s namesake, the $200,000 Wise Dan (GII), on June 18, along with work mate Conquest Typhoon, who worked a half-mile in :49.40.
“Za worked real well,” Casse said. “We were disappointed in his last effort. He didn’t really like the yielding turf course, so we may be pointing to the Wise Dan. Conquest Typhoon worked with World Approval and he’ll go to the Wise Dan for sure.”
ARISTIDES OFFERS MILESTONE OPPORTUNITY FOR LIMOUSINE LIBERAL – Following near-misses against fast company in his young career, Katherine Ball’s Limousine Liberal has the opportunity to earn his first victory in graded stakes competition in Saturday’s 28th running of the $100,000 Aristides (Grade III) at Churchill Downs.
Just over a year following an impressive victory in his racing debut beneath the Louisville track’s Twin Spires, the 4-year-old homebred is unbeaten in three races on the allowance and maiden levels, but 0-for-4 against the likes 2016 Eclipse Award Sprint champion Runhappy, Private Zone, Trouble Kid, Kobe’s Back and Catalina Red in stakes races.
None of those rivals will be in the starting gate for Saturday’s six-furlong Aristides and Churchill Downs odds maker Mike Battaglia has installed Limousine Liberal as the 7-5 favorite in his morning line for the race. But trainer Ben Colebrook’s star still must face the likes of defending Aristides winner Alsvid; Barbados, the 2015 Hutcheson (GIII) winner and runner-up to Runhappy in Keeneland’s Grade III Phoenix (GIII); the 3-year-old Toews On Ice, an impressive winner over members of his age group for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert in the $100,000 William Walker on Opening Night of the Churchill Downs Spring Meet; and the Steve Asmussen-trained Union Jackson, a son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin who makes his stakes debut following back-to-back allowance wins at Oaklawn Park and Keeneland.
While he respects the six rivals Limousine Liberal will face in the Aristides, the 37-year-old Colebrook believes a repeat of his most recent effort on the seven-furlong, $500,000 Churchill Downs (GII) on Kentucky Derby Day will put him in good position to earn his elusive first stakes triumph. Limousine Liberal and jockey Luis Saez engaged in a sizzling pace duel in that race with Asmussen’s Holy Boss, recording in fractions of :22.24 and :44.64 before he faltered late to finish sixth of nine, just four lengths behind the victorious Catalina Red.
“I think he’s in a good enough spot,” Colebrook said. “In his last race, it didn’t really set-up for him going seven furlongs. We broke faster than we normally do, and Ricardo Santana on Holy Boss was on the outside of him pushing him along the whole way. Luis didn’t have a chance to give him a breather the whole way.
“When you’re going seven furlongs and go a half in :44, I think that’s just a little too quick for him – especially with all those closers in the race. I know the winner came from just off the pace and didn’t seem to be stopping, but I thought Limousine Liberal and Holy Boss (who finished fifth) paid the price for the strong pace.”
After he overcame major traffic problems to win his early June debut at Churchill Downs, Limousine Liberal won an Ellis Park allowance race before heading to Saratoga for a runner-up finish behind eventual champion and Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) winner Runhappy in the King’s Bishop (GI). He just missed in the Gallant Bob (GIII) at Parx, finishing a neck behind Trouble Kid, before he headed to Keeneland to complete his 3-year-old season with a disappointing run in the Breeders’ Cup. Colebrook’s star broke slowly that day and finished 11th of 14.
Limousine Liberal opened 2016 with an allowance win at Keeneland in which he set a track record for 6 ½ furlongs. His run in the Churchill Downs was his second race of the season.
Although his competition in the Aristides is talented, it is a less-accomplished group that Limousine Liberal faced on Derby Day. And Colebrook thinks Saturday’s race and distance should be better-suited for the talents of his rising star.
“It looks like Baffert’s horse (Toews on Ice) has speed from the one (hole) and there’s some speed to the inside of us,” he said. “I think he could potentially work out a good trip, because he doesn’t really have to have the lead. He took off Runhappy in the King’s Bishop and settled well. He’s fast enough to make the lead if nobody’s going, but ideally I’d like to see him just a little bit off of it in the clear this time.”
Corey Lanerie, the 10-time leading rider at Churchill Downs who currently sits second in the Spring Meet jockey standings behind Julien Leparoux, will ride Limousine Liberal in the Aristides.
“He’s trained great coming into the race,” Colebrook said. “I think he’ll have a big effort. The main thing is just trying to get him that graded stake, which has been a little bit elusive.
“I thought the Churchill Downs was probably as good a race as we’ve seen for kind of the seven-furlong specialist, and I’m not sure the Limo’s best distance is seven. He can do it, but I think the pace scenario has to set-up for him.”
A win by Limousine Liberal would be the second graded stakes triumph at Churchill Downs for Colebrook, who earlier won the 2014 Mrs. Revere (GII) with his grass star Sparkling Review. Limousine Liberal brings a career record of 3-2-0 in seven races and total earnings of $251,200 into the race.
“I definitely think he’s got graded stakes ability,” Colebrook said. “The beauty of him is that he’s a gelding and we hope we’ll be enjoying him for years to come. Those sprinting geldings seem to be able to go on for a while, so hopefully it’s just the beginning for him.”
‘RED DOG’ EXCITED ABOUT WELL-BRED MAIDEN VICTOR FUHRIOUSLY KISSED; POSSIBLE FOR REGRET – Anita Cauley’s Fuhriously Kissed, winner of a May 28 maiden special weight, has trainer Gary “Red Dog” Hartlage looking forward to what the future could potentially hold. The daughter of Langfuhr is a possibility for stakes action on the Stephen Foster undercard in the $100,000 Regret (GIII), which is run at 1 1/16 miles over the Matt Winn Turf Course.
“She’s by Langfuhr so we’re thinking she might like the grass,” Hartlage said. “We’ve always had hopes for her and we had to kind of back off her a little bit at Oaklawn. We wanted to run her in the Honeybee earlier in the year, but now we’re hoping to make it to a stakes. That’s our goal.”
Hartlage is no stranger to his filly’s family line as he trained the dam French Kiss and the granddam Ornate, both of which are stakes winners. Ornate went on to produce millionaire On Fire Baby, who gave Hartlage his only Grade I victories in the 2013 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn and the following year’s La Troienne at Churchill Downs, as well as graded stakes winner High Heels, who ran third in the 2007 Kentucky Oaks.
“Her and On Fire Baby are two different horses,” Hartlage said. “On Fire Baby was big and weighed a few hundred more pounds than this one. She’s a little different, she’s real gritty and has a bit of a mean streak to her but she does everything right and is real professional about everything. When you need her to do something, she does it. Around the stall she’ll try and bite your head off when you least expect it, but she’s good. She’s really good in the afternoons and she doesn’t lose her cool.”
Fuhriosuly Kissed’s maiden victory was at a mile, but Hartlage is looking to stretch her out in distance.
"That’s not what we really wanted but it is what it is,” Hartlage said. “She’s just that good. That’s why the distance didn’t bother me, but I don’t want to run her at a mile again.”
Fuhriously Kissed would likely breeze sometime next week over the Matt Winn Turf Course before Hartlage makes a decision to run in the Regret.
DOWN THE STRETCH – The field for the $100,000 Old Forester Mint Julep (GIII) on Saturday, June 11 is beginning to take shape. Known probables for the 1 1/16-mile event for fillies and mares on the Matt Winn Turf Course, according to Churchill Downs stakes coordinator Dan Bork: Cash Control, Flying Tipat, Lady Foghorn, Kiss Moon and Zipessa. … The “Who’s the Champ? Handicapping Contest” returns Sunday. Interested participants can enter for $35 ($30 for TSC Elite members) for a chance to win the $1,000 cash voucher first prize by placing mythical $2 win and place bets on Races 3-8. Second place receives a $500 voucher and third place is worth a $200 voucher. Registration takes place between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on the Clubhouse second floor at the top of the Gate 17 escalators. … “Inside Churchill Downs,” co-hosted by Churchill Downs Racetrack’s John Asher and Darren Rogers, airs every Saturday from 10-11 a.m. throughout the Spring Meet on ESPN 680/105.7. This week’s guests include Ben Colebrook, the trainer of Limousine Liberal.