The story keeps ending the same, six times in a row now. But watching it unfold never gets old, never loses its emotional pull, never fails to be more awe inspiring than the time before.
Reigning champion turf female Tepin had another routine day of excellence Saturday, sitting her typical stalking trip and drawing clear with customary ease by 3 ½ lengths to capture the Grade II, $300,000 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile for a second straight year beneath the Twin Spires.
The Churchill Distaff Turf Mile was one of six graded stakes on the undercard of the 142nd Kentucky Derby.
Save for a head and nose defeat, respectively, in the Grade II Ballston Spa and Grade I Diana last summer, Robert Masterson’s Tepin has been untouchable for the past year and a half. The 5-year-old daughter of Bernstein has prevailed in six consecutive starts, including the Breeders’ Cup Mile last October, and taken nine of her last 11 outings.
Given how easily she rolled past pacesetter Isabella Sings around the final turn and drew off from her six rivals with barely a nudge from jockey Julien Leparoux on Saturday, her expected trip to Royal Ascot for a start in the Group I Queen Anne Stakes on June 14 is all but locked in.
“I guess Royal Ascot, here we come,” said trainer Mark Casse, who has repeatedly called the four-time Grade I winner the best horse he’s ever conditioned. “She’s probably one of our biggest accomplishments because she started out as good and she’s become great. Nobody can predict this. No one can predict greatness like her.”
Similar to their outing in the Grade II Hillsborough Stakes on March 12, Isabella Sings tried to steal her way to victory by opening up a clear advantage on the front end with Tepin biding her time in second through fractions of :23.35 and :46.06.
Where Isabella Sings was 18 lengths in front at one point in the Hillsborough, Leparoux kept that target closer in his sights Saturday en route to covering the distance in 1:34.36.
Rainha Da Bateria was second with Cash Control third.
“She’s just the champ. I’m blessed to be on her,” Leparoux said of Tepin. “Today I didn’t want to be too far from (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.”
Bred by Machmer Hall, Tepin came into the Turf Mile off a 5-length victory in the Grade I Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland on April 16. She improved her career mark to 11 wins from 19 starts and $3,078,253 in earnings.
Taris gets her Grade I in Humana Distaff
Taris, who has been off the board just once in 13 career starts, broke through for her first top-level triumph when she collared pacesetter Stonetastic and drew off under Flavien Prat for a 5 3/4 -length score in the Grade I, $300,000 Humana Distaff going 7 furlongs.
Trained by Simon Callaghan, Taris had not been worse than third in three prior Grade I starts including a runner-up finish in the Grade I Santa Margarita Stakes on March 19. The 5-year-old daughter of Flatter put it all together Saturday, rating third through fractions of :22.19 and :44.95 and then came with a huge kick down the middle of the track to earn her eighth win in 13 career starts. Final time for the race was 1:21.03 over a fast track.
Divisidero wins Woodford Reserve
Churchill Downs continues to be the personal playground of Divisidero.
One year after earning his first graded stakes victory by winning the Grade II American Turf under the Spires, the 4-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy notched his first Grade I score when he took the $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic by a neck over World Approval.
Trained by Buff Bradley, Divisidero was making his third start of 2016 and had shown steady improvement heading into Saturday’s 1 1/8 -mile turf test. The bay colt was most recently second in the Grade II Appleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park on April 2 after starting his campaign with a third-place effort in the Grade III Canadian Turf Stakes.
The Woodford Reserve was marred by a scary incident when Kasaqui appeared to clip heels around the final turn and fell with Triple Threat unable to avoid him. Both horses were up and reported to be in good order after the spill and jockeys Jose Lezcano and Paco Lopez also escaped serious injury.
▪ In other graded stakes action Saturday, Catalina Red put away a stubborn Holy Boss at the eighth pole and then held off bids from Calculator and Kobe’s Back to win the Grade II, $500,000 Churchill Downs Stakes going 7 furlongs. Camelot Kitten earned his first graded stakes score in five starts when he just got his nose down over Beach Patrol in the Grade II, $300,000 American Turf going 1 1/16 miles while Sharp Azteca sat just off a wicked half-mile in :44.09 and still cruised to a 2 ½-length victory in the Grade III, $250,000 Pat Day Mile.