For the most part, the great American-based fillies and mares of the last few decades were stars who beat the boys in Triple Crown races or major Grade 1 stakes on dirt.
One of the exceptions was Tepin.
Tepin was that rare American Distaff star who did not race on dirt for the bulk of her career but nonetheless was as respected and popular as virtually any other horse – male or female – of her era and was capable of defeating opponents of either sex.
Owned by Robert Masterson and trained by Mark Casse, the brilliant turf miler ran 23 times from 2013 through 2016 and won 13 of those starts with career earnings of $4,437,918 and a pair of Eclipse Awards as the champion turf female of 2015 and 2016.
She won the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland in 2015, defeating males, and finished her career with six Grade/Group 1 wins in three different countries.
“When you win a race on the dirt, you’re beating the best in horses in North America,” Casse said. “But when you win on the grass you are beating the best horses in the world. She got better as she got older. Nothing seemed to bother her. She could run on any kind of turf surface. She was a very special horse and deserved every accolade she received.”
Purchased by Masterson for $140,000 at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings, Tepin made her debut on Sept. 7, 2013 in a dirt race at Churchill Downs where she was sent off as a 2.10-1 favorite but finished fourth after pressing the pace.
Tepin atoned for that setback a month later on a synthetic surface at Keeneland by registering a 3 ¼-length victory.
Casse then returned the daughter of Bernstein to dirt, where she was third in the Rags to Riches Stakes at Churchill Downs and won the Grade 3 Delta Downs Princess Stakes to close out her 2-year-old campaign.
When she returned to the races at 3, Tepin took a few backward steps as she opened 2014 with an eighth in the Miss Preakness Stakes at Pimlico and was eighth again a month later when she made her turf debut in the Grade 3 Regret Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Despite the poor effort in the Regret, Casse liked how Tepin moved on the turf and shipped her west to run in the Grade 2 San Clemente Stakes on turf. His faith was rewarded with a second-place finish but after a dull eighth-place finish in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks, Casse pulled in the reins and gave Tepin some time off.
“She had a little issue at the end of her 3-year-old campaign,” Casse said. “She couldn’t catch her breath. We brought her home, gave her some time, and the rest is history.”
When she returned at 4 in 2015, she began her ascent to the very top of the female turf division. She started the year with a victory in an optional claiming race, then took a big step up in class to run in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile at 9.10-1 odds. She won by 1 ½ lengths that day, and then proceeded to earn Grade 1 laurels for the first time with a victory in the Longines Just a Game Stakes at Belmont Park.
She subsequently finished a game second in a pair of Saratoga graded stakes, the Diana and Ketel One Ballston Spa Stakes, but then turned in a monstrous effort in the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes at Keeneland. She won by seven lengths as the favorite in a victory that made her a serious contender against males in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
“Confidence was the key with her in terms of her improvement,” Casse said. “We changed her running style a bit, but she also became more confident.”
Sent off as the 9-2 third choice in an international field of 12, Tepin pressed the pace and then took charge in the stretch en route to a 2 ¼-length victory under regular rider Julien Leparoux that wrapped up an Eclipse Award for her.
It was the ninth time a female had won the Breeders’ Cup Mile, although Tepin was the only one of them who was based in America for her entire career.
“To be in the same company with Goldikova, Miesque, Six Perfections, and Royal Heroine, beating the boys in the Mile, I’m not sure I have the words. Am I dreaming?” Casse said at the time. “She just continues to amaze me. I’m still in shock [at how easily she won and by how many lengths], so I’ll have to watch the race a few more times, and then I’ll be even more surprised. I can’t put it into words what great work [Casse’s son and assistant trainer Norman Casse] did with this horse. It’s special. He worked really hard with her.”
Voted the champion turf female of 2015, expectations were high for Tepin’s 5-year-old campaign and she did not disappoint. As an exciting star in a digital era, Tepin began to trend on Twitter as her popularity as “Queen of the Turf” grew by leaps and bounds with every victory.
She started 2016 by reeling off graded stakes wins in the Lambholm South Endeavour and Hillsborough Stakes, both at Tampa Bay Downs, and then followed that up with victories in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland and Grade 2 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs.
After six straight wins, Casse then prepared Tepin for the tremendous challenge of shipping to England and facing international competition in the Queen Anne Stakes, a Group 1 test at the famed Royal Ascot meet.
Facing males in a formidable field of 11 rivals, Tepin used her speed to stay close to the lead in the one-mile test on a straight course before surging to the front inside the final quarter-mile and prevailing by a half-length in a performance Casse rates as the most memorable of her illustrious career.
“Winning at Royal Ascot was definitely the moment that stands out,” Casse said. “Now that she won it, I appreciate It even more. It was on my radar to win there but I didn’t pay as much attention to it as I do now after we went over there and won. I now realize how tough it is to win there. To go over there and beat them at their own game was very satisfying. It’s not easy.”
Continuing the trend as an international sensation, Tepin was given a three-month break and then once again broke out her passport to travel to Canada and tackle males in the $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile.
Once again Tepin prevailed by a half-length, giving her Grade or Group 1 victories over males in three different countries.
A return date in the Breeders’ Cup Mile was on the horizon and Casse once again targeted the First Lady at Keeneland as his champion’s final prep. Only this time things did not work out as well as the previous year. She was unable to collar a loose-on-the-lead 29-1 longshot in Photo Call and wound up second by 2 ¾ lengths. That stunning loss against fellow females raised questions about whether time was catching up with the dynamic mare.
In the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita Park, she went off as a close 3.70-1 second betting choice behind 3.40-1 favorite Limato from Europe.
There was the possibility for a coronation as a two-time Breeders’ Cup winner, but it was not to be.
Tepin was uncharacteristically seventh in the early going and then lost ground while staging a strong, four-wide move in the stretch for the lead. Meanwhile, Tourist, who was alongside Tepin for much of the race, stayed inside and took full advantage of an opening along the rail to gain a narrow lead and held off a furious rush by Tepin to prevail by a half-length.
It wasn’t the desired result for a mare who would become a two-time Eclipse Award winner, yet it was a performance that typified all of the class, courage, and ability she brought to the racetrack.
“She put in a great effort because she was out of her element,” Casse said about what would be Tepin’s final start. “She was used to being on the lead tuning for home and you had to catch her, but this time she was the one who had to catch up. Tourist had a perfect trip and snuck up along the rail to beat her. People thought she was over the top but she might have run her best race that day.”
Masterson and Casse hoped to race Tepin at six, but she came down with a mild case of colic early in the year, ending her career with the runner-up finish in the Breeders’ Cup.
If anything, Tepin certainly did not lose a step in the race for greatness in that final race against the world’s best horses. Even amidst the disappointment of that last race, at the end of a long and grueling career, there was a highly fitting end as a great mare was able to serve up a final reminder of how special she was and how no challenge was too great for her to accept.
Note: This story was originally published in October 2018 and has been updated.
- Tepin was sold for $8 million to M.V. Magnier of Coolmore Stud at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November sale. She gave birth to a Curlin filly in 2018, a filly in 2019 by champion European sire Galileo, another Galileo filly in 2021, and a colt by another top European sire, Dubawi, in 2022.
- Tepin was named for a street in Bighorn, Colo., where Masterson lives.
- Tepin is the only horse based outside of Europe to win the Queen Anne Stakes.
- She was bred in Kentucky by Machmer Hall.