Champion Tepin ‘true professional’ in final work for Royal Ascot

Tepin, with Julien Leparoux up, won the Jenny Wiley Stakes for trainer Mark Casse and owner Robert Masterson during the Keeneland Spring Meet.
Tepin, with Julien Leparoux up, won the Jenny Wiley Stakes for trainer Mark Casse and owner Robert Masterson during the Keeneland Spring Meet. Keeneland Photos

It was one of those mornings in the Casse Racing shedrow where the activity was coming from all corners.

In between the parade of workers fine tuning themselves over the Churchill Downs main track Friday, there were emails to answer and details to be finalized regarding a certain overseas venture that has the entire operation teetering between finger-biting nerves and anticipatory excitement.

In times of high stress, it never hurts to have a little familiarity to soothe one over. As has been her hallmark, reigning female turf champion Tepin provided some relief simply by being herself.

With jockey Julien Leparoux in the irons, Tepin turned in her typical business-as-usual work Friday morning, covering 4 furlongs in 48.40 seconds at Churchill Downs in her last major move before shipping to England next week for her expected start in the Group I Queen Anne Stakes June 14 at Royal Ascot.

The Mark Casse-trainee has developed into the consummate professional over the last year and a half as her on-track outings are devoid of surprise or wavering form. On a particularly busy morning beneath the Twin Spires, Tepin clocked splits of :12.40, and :24.20 and galloped out 5 furlongs in 1:01.20 — a move that assistant trainer Norman Casse deemed same old, same old for the 5-year-old daughter of Bernstein.

“She does everything just without any effort. She goes out there and I think she’s a true professional now,” said Norman Casse, top assistant to his father. “She knows exactly what to do and Julien just kind of is a passenger. When you have horses like that who day in and day out do the same exact thing, it’s much easier on us to gauge whether or not they’re doing well. If it was like a subpar work or if she was doing something a little different, I would have concerns.

“She’s never given me any kind of concerns. Professionals do every thing right all the time, and that’s what she does.”

Tepin will quarantine in Lexington before shipping to England early next week and is slated to stable in trainer David Lanigan’s yard once she arrives.

Though Mark Casse expressed concern last week over the fact Tepin will not be able to race in the 1-mile Queen Anne with her equine nasal strip that is commonly used in North America, the bay mare’s mature mindset is a big reason why the venture was green-lighted to begin with. In winning nine of her last 11 starts, including four Grade I races, the defending Breeders’ Cup Mile heroine has shown she can relax and adjust to any race scenario.

She is equally kind on herself — and others — outside of her race days. She greets the ever-increasing influx of visitors to her stall with welcoming nuzzles and has handled the nature of shipping with little issue.

“All those things are what makes her a good racehorse and makes her be the horse that she is,” Norman Casse said. “I don’t think she’d be in this position if she wasn’t all those things. Her class and as professional as she is, that’s why she is Tepin and why she has this opportunity.”

With multiple Group I-winner Solow declared out of the Queen Anne last month, Tepin stands to be the race favorite as she faces male rivals for the first time since her 2¼-length win in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland last October. She has won each of her four outings this season, including her most recent victory in the Grade II Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes on May 7, and has not lost over the 1-mile distance since running second in the 2014 Grade II San Clemente Handicap at Del Mar.

“It’s really rewarding to be a part of something so special,” Norman Casse said. “It’s hard for me to be excited because we’ve got a job to do. You wait until afterward and you hope that you win and get to celebrate that. It is very stressful to have a horse like this but I hope it is something we eventually get used to because we get opportunities like this over and over.”

Owned by Robert Masterson, Tepin has won 11 of 19 starts with $3,078,253 in earnings.

Noble Bird, World Approval work

Grade I winner Noble Bird made his case to go forward to the Grade I Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park on June 11 when he breezed 4 furlongs in 48 flat Friday under Leparoux.

The son of Birdstone snapped a four-race losing skid when he captured the Grade III Pimlico Special by an eye-catching 11¼ lengths on May 20 and has bounced out of that outing even better than he came into it, according to Casse.

“It was a pretty important work for him today,” Norman Casse said. “I’ve been watching him intently since he ran and everything is indicating that he is doing well, if not better, than before the Pimlico Special. I would say we’re leaning toward running in the Met Mile. We kind of think it would suit him better because he is a free running horse and if you cut him back to a mile, there will be horses that go ... and he’ll get to run his style of race.”

Also slated to run on the Belmont Stakes undercard June 11 is multiple graded stakes winner World Approval, who worked 4 furlongs in :49.40 in company Friday in preparation for the Grade I Manhattan.

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

Queen Anne Stakes

When: June 14

Where: Ascot Racecourse in Great Britain

Distance: 1 mile