TORONTO – It was business as usual for the world’s best turf mare on Saturday in the $1 million Woodbine Mile.
Tepin, currently the second ranked horse in the weekly National Thoroughbred Racing Association poll behind California Chrome, delivered a dramatic half-length win for the adoring Canadian crowd.
The win automatically qualified the daughter of Bernstein for the Breeders’ Cup Mile on Nov. 5 at Santa Anita Park. It was the eighth straight win for the Mark Casse-trained mare, her last loss coming at Saratoga last summer.
The winner completed the mile trek in 1:34.13 on a turf course that was rated good due to the rains that fell during most of the day. Tepin returned $2.90 to her backers for the win and $2.10 to place. There was no show betting on the race. Second-place finisher Tower of Texas returned $10.60 for the placing.
As post time approached, the sun started to shine for the first time all day and a rainbow suddenly appeared over the historic turf course. Tepin made sure there was gold at the end of the finish line for her connections.
She took over midway down the long Woodbine stretch to overtake pacesetter Glenville Gardens and Full Mast as she entered the deep stretch. She held off late runs from Tower of Texas and Mutakayyef, who finished third.
Mark Casse did not make the trip, citing weather issues in Lexington that caused a cancellation of his flight to Toronto earlier in the day. His son and assistant Norman, who spent the summer with Tepin at Saratoga, managed the training chores on Saturday to perfection.
As the younger Casse headed to the winners’ circle, chants of Tepin’s name arose from the Toronto-based crowd. “I have never been a part of something like that,” said Casse. “Even at Royal Ascot when we won it was a pretty emotional moment and the crowd was really acknowledging her, but for us to have people chanting her name as she came back was a pretty cool moment,” he said.
With Tepin coming off a three month layoff since her win at Royal Ascot in June, Casse lauded jockey Julien Leparoux’s ride on Tepin. “I thought Julien rode a really smart race; he knew what we were up against. He knew that we were coming off a layoff and that he was going to have to save a little bit. And that she wouldn’t be able to make that big move that she typically makes,” said Casse.
Going into the race the younger Casse wasn’t as confident as he’s been in last year’s Eclipse winning female turf horse. “She’s obviously all heart,” said Casse.” You can see even in the win picture she laid it all on the line for you. I had my reservations coming into the race, I thought we had her cranked up but I wasn’t 100 percent confident,” he said.
Leparoux, who won the Queen’s Plate here in July aboard Sir Dudley Digges, completed the Plate-Mile double for the first time since 1998 when Kent Desormeaux won both key races on the Woodbine racing calendar.
“She broke good and relaxed; was traveling very well the whole way, but she got a little tired at the end,” said Leparoux. “But we expected that too, she has been off for three months.”
When asked about the fan reception she received after the race, Leparoux continued to heap praise on his champion mare. “Everybody loves her. She’s good for racing and the connections are good for racing, they took her to Ascot and they took her here,” said Leparoux.
She’s now won in three countries this year and will likely next point towards a final prep race at Keeneland in Lexington before heading to Santa Anita and the Breeders’ Cup.
Second-place finisher Tower of Texas was charging late for trainer Roger Attfield, but just could not get to Tepin before the wire, coming up a half-length short. Jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva was pleased with the effort from the son of Street Sense. “If I had some room a little bit earlier, it could have been a little bit different. I could have been closer. When my horse turned for home, I thought I was the winner. I’m traveling very easy, this horse really finished well. I am thrilled and I could not be happier for my horse,” said da Silva. “I’m thrilled with his performance.”
The coronation for Tepin helped produce the biggest Woodbine Mile wagering day in history with betting handle of $9,638,444, besting the prior mark set last year by over $2.4 million. It was the fifth-largest betting day carded at Woodbine in history.
The younger Casse basked in the moment after the race, remembering that Woodbine was the place where it all started for him. “This was a really special moment to me,” said Casse. “This is where I learned everything. This to me is the marquis race that Woodbine puts on. To bring our best horse and win it it’s really, really nice.”
His horse has developed a huge following and continues to handle males in races all over the globe. If she was vulnerable to be upset, this was the spot, running on soft ground and coming off a long layoff. Casse compared it to the effort she made at Royal Ascot in June in similar conditions.
“She laid it on the line that day, she wasn’t comfortable,” said Casse.” She was up against the elements that day, she struggled with the track and she still won because that’s what she is, a champion. And that’s what champions do.”
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.