Robert Masterson’s champion Tepin became the second horse to repeat in the $300,000 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Presented by Longines (GII) for fillies and mares by romping to a 3 ½-length victory over Rainha Da Bateria in the 31st running of the race.
Trained by Mark Casse and ridden by Julien Leparoux, Tepin covered the mile on a firm Matt Winn Turf Course in 1:34.36. Tepin joins Foresta (1990-91) as the only repeat winners in the race. It marked the third victory in the race for Leparoux, who also won in 2013 with Stephanie’s Kitten as well as last year on Tepin for Casse.
The victory, the sixth in a row for Tepin and ninth in her past 11 starts, was worth $182,280 and boosted Tepin’s earnings past the $3 million mark at $3,078,253 with a record of 19-11-3-1.
The champion older filly or mare turf performer of 2015, Tepin is a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Bernstein out of the Stravinsky mare Life Happened.
Isabella Sings set the pace, leading the field of seven through fractions of :23.35 and :46.06 as Tepin tracked in second about five length back. On the far turn, Leparoux sent Tepin after the leader and by the top of the stretch the race was over as Tepin swept past and drew clear without opposition.
Tepin returned $2.60, $2.20 and $2.10. Rainha Da Bateria, ridden by Javier Castellano, returned $6 and $4 and finished three-quarters of a length in front of Cash Control, who paid $4.60 to show under Shaun Bridgmohan.
It was another 1 ¾ lengths back to Zipessa who finished fourth and was followed in order by Bureau de Change, She’s Not Here and Isabella Sings.
Julien Leparoux (rider of Tepin, winner) – "She's just a champ. She's a very good filly. I'm blessed to be on her. She's the best I've ever rode, that's for sure. She is really just special. Every time you ask her for something she does it even better. Today I didn't want to be too far from Johnny (Velazquez on pacesetter Isabella Sings). I took her a little bit out of her comfort zone, but then she just reacts on the backside and came kicking at the end like she always does."
Q: On the possibility of Tepin competing at the Royal Ascot meet.
"That would be a dream come true. I want to go there, and I think she deserves a shot there. I think she can be competitive there for sure."
Mark Casse (trainer of Tepin, winner) – “I guess we better start figuring out how we do this. As long as she is happy and healthy, the next day or two we’ll map out a plan. So I guess Royal Ascot here we come. Honestly I didn’t even say anything to Julien (Leparoux). He’s a great rider and he knows her better than anybody. I think that in his mind, I got the feeling that he wasn’t going to let her (Isabella Sings) get as far away. I know that Mr. [Robert] Masterson said to him, ‘You aren’t going to let her get too far away are you?’, but she is just amazing.
“I’ve been coming here for a long time. This is my first time since my dad (Norman Casse) passed away a couple of months ago, so this is kind of hard. If you’re a horse trainer, this is what you strive for and I don’t know if there is a better place to win than at Churchill Downs on Derby Day, and then to win with the best horse I have ever trained is very nice.
“I’m a big believer in confidence and I think that she got her confidence. She gets along real well with Julien and I’ve said this many times, but Norman has done a great job with her and he knows her. She doesn’t train like the average horse. Everyone looked and said ‘Oh she worked so slow for the race,’. Someone came up and said ‘Are you worried?’ and I said, ‘You just don’t worry, she’s better than ever,’ She’s learned to relax. We have a lot of good older horses and I believe in letting them get confidence and get better. She’s probably one of our biggest accomplishments because she started out as good and she’s become great. Nobody can predict this. I don’t care how good you are or how good a trainer you are, no one can predict greatness like her.”
Q: When will she ship to Royal Ascot?
“We’ll start talking about it tomorrow. We’ve already done some blood work in advance. She’s a great shipper. I would say that we would let her go not too early. This is home for her and she likes this racetrack and so we’ll try to stay here as long as we can.”
Javier Castellano (rider of Rainha Da Bateria, runner-up) – “The winner was much the best today. I’m really satisfied with the way my filly ran today. She finished really strong and I like the way she galloped out. My filly is going to prove a lot more the rest of the year.”
Brad Cox (trainer of Cash Control, third-place finisher) – "Big effort. I'm pleased with her. They were rocking and rolling, I know that. They were flying. The jock (Shaun Bridgmohan) did a good job saving ground both turns. I thought she was going to get second, just got caught late for second. Real pleased with her. We'll keep her on the turf. Maybe the Mint Julep here next. She likes it here."