Champion Tepin likely for Grade I Jenny Wiley at Keeneland

Champion Tepin is still on track to make a start during upcoming Keeneland Spring Meet, but is now more likely to face her own gender in the Grade I, 1 1/16-miles Jenny Wiley Stakes on the turf April 16 rather than tackle males in the Grade I Maker’s 46 Mile the day before, trainer Mark Casse said Monday.

Casse originally had the $300,000 Maker’s 46 Mile circled for the reigning champion turf female as that spot is contested at her preferred eight-furlong distance and she’s already proven she could defeat the opposite sex when she captured the Breeders’ Cup Mile by 2 1/4 lengths at Keeneland last October 31.

In her first two starts this season, however, Tepin handled added distance with zero issue, winning the Grade III, 1 1/16-miles Endeavour Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths on February 13 and the Grade II Hillsborough Stakes over 1 1/8-miles by a length on March 12.

Those factors combined with the fact the Jenny Wiley purse of $350,000 is $50,000 more than the Maker’s 46 has Casse leaning towards the former with the 5-year-old daughter of Bernstein.

“You know, the reason before that we looked at the Maker’s 46 was because of the mile but because of how well she ran last time going 1 1/8 miles and her previous start going 1 1/16 miles, we don’t feel that the distance is that big of an issue,” Casse said from his base in Florida. “They’re both Grade Is and she’s already proven she can beat the colts so I can’t really come up with a good reason to run in the Maker’s 46 rather than the Jenny Wiley. The Jenny Wiley has more purse and is against her own sex and the distance isn’t an issue.”

While another Grade I victory against males would carry added weight for Tepin when forecasting her potential for year-end honors in 2016, Casse says a title defense in the Breeders’ Cup Mile remains the long term goal and he sees no reason to have his first Eclipse Award winner go to the well too early in the season.

”It all boils down to one thing pretty well and that’s, you have to win the Breeders’ Cup,” Casse said. “So I’m not going to start worrying about her being champion in May. I’m more worried about keeping her record well and honestly, I can’t really come up with a good reason to run in the Maker’s 46.”

Bred by Machmer Hall and owned by Robert Masterson, Tepin won five of seven starts in 2015 including the Grade I Just a Game and Grade I First Lady at Keeneland en route to her championship-clinching Breeders’ Cup triumph. She has not been worse than second in her last nine outings and has a career mark of nine wins from 17 starts with $2,685,973 in earnings.

Alicia Wincze Hughes: 859-231-1676, @horseracinghl