Remember back in late August, not all that long ago in the grand scheme of life, and some rued the bad luck being sent in the direction of Tepin and her connections. Who could forget really, after the daughter of Bernstein was dealt back-to-back losses by the combined margin about the length of a school kid's foot-long ruler in graded stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
Those days seem so far gone now, after a validating Grade 1 win last fall at Keeneland before a world-conquering victory in the Breeders' Cup Mile four weeks later.
They seem especially distant after Tepin's latest tour de force in Saturday's Grade 1 Coolmore Jenny Wiley Stakes before a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd at Keeneland Race Course in a race that sent another top-tier female grass filly running for cover in an unlikely spot.
Tepin is simply that good. How good? Consider that the connections of Miss Temple City opted to run that filly against males, in a Grade 1 stakes no less, instead of trying last year's champion turf female in the Jenny Wiley. The move was a good one for Miss Temple City, who beat the boys in the Grade 1 Maker's 46 Mile Friday at Keeneland to conjure more thoughts of a second run at Royal Ascot.
You see, the connections of Miss Temple City are not put off by a big challenge, it's just that Tepin is, well, Tepin.
The eight opponents that did remain in the Jenny Wiley field and the 38,863 on hand in summerlike conditions found out just how good Tepin is these days when the 9 furlongs of the day's feature were complete. Tepin and jockey Julien Leparoux won by 5 lengths over French import Wakeela with Southern California shipper Illuminant another 1 1/2 lengths back in third. Tepin set a stakes record - and nearly a course record - winning in 1:40.53 on the firm ground.
Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens got the closest view of Tepin, coming from California himself to ride Wakeela for trainer Chad Brown and owner Martin Schwartz in his only mount of the day. Walking back in the shade of the tunnel after the Jenny Wiley, Stevens praised his French-bred mount, and the winner.
"She's awesome, we knew that," Stevens said of Tepin, now the winner of five straight since a head loss in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa in late August at Saratoga. "But my filly put in an awesome performance being second, in her first race in America in a Group 1. She missed the break completely. My plan was to be right on Julien's rear and that went out the window the very first jump. She was clueing me into it in the starting gate, kind of nonchalant like most of the French horses. She's beautiful, she'll win a Group 1."
Wekeela was Group 3 winner and Group 1 placed in France with trainer Jean-Claude Rouget before joining Brown's string at Palm Meadows this winter. Brown thought the Hurricane Run filly would run big in her U.S. debut.
"She ran terrific, I expected her to or I wouldn't have entered her," he said. "Tepin is a remarkable horse though. She ran terrific and the way it turned out everybody was running for second."
Michael McCarthy knew it was a tall order for Illuminant to ship from his Santa Anita base to take on Tepin, but was thoroughly satisfied after the filly who could only manage two fourths in her prior to graded stakes tries finished a game third.
"Pretty tough to ship across the country and hook a horse like that," McCarthy said. "This filly was doing well, the spacing worked out nicely, there was nothing in California right now and we thought this filly would go ahead and find herself in a nice position either on the lead or very close to it. We thought it was worth taking a shot and it worked out.
"What can you say about Tepin though, she's just awesome. She really is amazing. At the same time for us to have only run nine times and run third to a champion, and still have conditions left, we're very pleased."
Owned by Robert Masterson and trained by Mark Casse, Tepin is now 10-for-18 with a bankroll approaching $3 million at $2,895,973.
Tepin is also headed for Royal Ascot, having been invited to the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes June 14. That race is at 1 mile, probably her optimum distance, and is against males.
Miss Temple City beats the boys
Graham Motion got his first exposure to racing in his native England, where fillies take on colts fairly frequently, yet he estimates he'd never run a female against males before sending Miss Temple City for her 2016 debut in Friday's Maker's 46 Mile.
"No, I don't think I have," Motion said as he made his way from the winner's circle to the Trustees Room. "Over there they kind of just do it and take it for granted, whereas over here we kind of think about it so much. Probably overthink it. We don't need to."
Motion thought it was the right move to keep Miss Temple City away from Tepin and go in the Maker's 46 when entries were taken earlier in the week. It's human nature to second-guess, and while he admitted to maybe a little, by the end and on race day he knew he'd made the right move.
"Normally you run in the filly race the next day, but it's just unusual this year to have a filly that good," Motion said of Tepin.
Miss Temple City showed she's plenty good, too, defeating a solid field in the Maker's 46 that included Heart To Heart, Tourist and Reload in that order, along with five others. The 4-year-old daughter of Temple City won by 1 1/4 lengths in a sharp time of 1:34.09.
The race unfolded exactly how Bob Feld, who bred the filly and races her in partnership as The Club Racing LLC with Kevin Plank's Sagamore Farm and Allen Rosenblum.
"Check it out, this was from 11:52 today," Feld said, scrolling through his text messages. "They asked, 'how do you think the race will unfold today?' Here's my answer, 'we sit third or fourth behind the speed, swing out, nail them on the wire.' "
Miss Temple City and Drayden Van Dyke didn't need to nail them on the wire - she was clear inside the furlong grounds - but she did sit third early behind the speed of Heart To Heart and Shining Copper before taking command in the stretch. Her winning time wasn't far off Perfect Soul's 1:33.54 when he won the same race in 2004.
Eagle lands in Ben Ali
Neil Howard finished a walk-and-talk interview walking up the tunnel and was about to step into the Trustees Room at Keeneland when he realized a key member of his team was nowhere to be seen.
"I wonder where my wife went; I need to find her," Howard said to a Keeneland staffer, glancing at his phone as he avoided patrons near the track gift shop.
"She's probably with John Elway. Find him and you'll probably find her," joked a friend (full disclosure, this writer).
"What are you talking about?" Howard responded.
About five minutes earlier Elway presented the winner's trophy to Will and Sarah Farish after their homebred Candy Ride colt Eagle won the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes. Howard won't appear in the photo; he was too busy at the time watching Eagle walk off the turf course and onto the main track for the short trip to the test barn following his 1 1/4-length win over Noble Bird.
When informed that it was Elway, who led the Denver Broncos to Super Bowl victories as a player (twice in 1997 and 1998) and as general manager (2016), who was on hand to do the honors it all started to come clear to Howard.
"You know, I was looking at that guy," Howard said. "I thought he looked familiar I just couldn't place him."
Howard placed Eagle in the right spot in the Ben Ali after four strong races at the Fair Grounds this winter. Once considered a classics contender - he was favored in the 2014 Lecomte Stakes won by International Star before finishing sixth - Eagle earned his first graded stakes stripes in the Ben Ali. He wore down a stubborn Noble Bird in the stretch under Brian Hernandez Jr. for his sixth win in 13 career starts.
Eagle also improved to 3-for-3 in his career at Keeneland, the other two victories allowance scores during the fall meets in 2014 and 2015.
A few hours after stopping at Three Chimneys Farm down Old Frankfort Pike in Midway to see their six-time stakes winner Ageless, Roy and Gretchen Jackson got a look at the possible heir apparent to that turf-sprinting specialist when Exaggerated upset Saturday's $100,000 Giant's Causeway Stakes.
Exaggerated collected her first stakes win in the 5 1/2-furlong Giant's Causeway, winning by 1 1/2 lengths at 10-1 for the Jacksons, trainer Arnaud Delacour and jockey Julien Leparoux.
"They need to rename this race the Arnaud Delacour race," Gretchen Jackson said after Exaggerated won in 1:02.81. "He loves this race, whether they're a sprinter or not, he's going to get there."
Exaggerated, a 4-year-old daughter of Blame the Jacksons bought with the help of agent Doug Cauthen for $250,000 at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale, gave Delacour his second win in the Giant's Causeway.
He also won it in 2014 with Ageless, who also was second in the 2015 edition. The Jacksons, Delacour and Leparoux also teamed to win the Grade 3 Buffalo Trace Franklin County last fall with Ageless.
"We've been lucky in this race," Delacour said.
The Jacksons were tempted to bring Ageless back for a 7-year-old campaign, a decision that was even more difficult after the Successful Appeal mare missed a chance to run in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint last October at Keeneland due to injury. She was turned out in Florida early in the year before arriving in Kentucky about three weeks ago. Ageless was bred to Speightstown and she's boarded with the rest of the Jackson's mares at Three Chimneys.
"It was tempting at our age to go ahead and run her again this year, but you'd kill yourself if something went wrong and she got hurt or if she tailed off," Roy Jackson said.
Exaggerated won a Virginia-bred turf sprint stakes and an off-the-turf dirt sprint last fall at Laurel Park before joining the rest of Delacour's string at Tampa Bay Downs for the winter. She was sixth in the Lightning City Stakes there before a win in allowance-optional company in late January.
The Giant's Causeway was her first start since that race.
"She had to step out from what she was doing," Roy Jackson said. "We had to give her a try to see if she could be with this crowd or not."
Collected gets the headlines and deserved attention for winning Saturday's $150,000 Lexington Stakes but it's worth noting that yet again a Southern California-based maiden completing the exacta in a graded stakes for 3-year-olds.
One More Round, winless in three previous starts at Santa Anita for trainer A. C. Avila, finished second to Collected in the Grade 3 Lexington after setting the pace in the 1 1/16-mile race. The son of Discreet Cat joins Laoban, second to Shagaf in the Grade 3 Gotham March 5 at Aqueduct, and Trojan Nation, second to Outwork in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial April 9 at Aqueduct, as runner-ups in classic preps without a victory on their resumes.
The Lexington hasn't produced a Kentucky Derby winner since Charismatic in 1999 and most likely won't again this year. Collected earned 10 points for his win in the Lexington and sits fairly deep on the outside looking in with just 21 total points. …
Creator went into Saturday's $1 million Arkansas Derby needing a strong performance to continue owner WinStar Farm's remarkable run in the opening jewel of the Triple Crown and delivered with a professional performance.
Kenny Troutt's WinStar Farm has started a horse in the Kentucky Derby in nine of the last 10 years and figures to extend that streak to 10 of 11 with Creator, who improved off a third in the Grade 2 Rebel to earn 100 points and lock up a spot in the starting gate. He won the Arkansas Derby at nearly 12-1, defeating the late running trio of Suddenbreakingnews, Whitmore and Dazzling Gem.