04/18/2016 10:37AM

Sparkman: Tepin helping make a case for Bernstein

Keeneland/Coady Photography
Tepin wins the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley on Saturday at Keeneland.

Throughout the decade that turned the corner into the 21st century, sons of Storm Cat were all the rage among international stallion masters, with scores of his well-bred sons given a chance at stud in addition to the usual Grade 1 winners and champions. The results were understandably mixed. The only real superstar that emerged was three-time leading North American sire Giant’s Causeway, but the title of Storm Cat’s second-best sire son is very much a matter of opinion.

The late Bernstein, sire of Saturday’s Grade 1 Jenny Wiley winner Tepin is very much in the conversation. Tepin is one of 90 stakes winners worldwide for Bernstein, who also shuttled for six seasons to Argentina, where he led the sire list in 2006 and 2007.

Bred in Kentucky by Betty Moran’s Brushwood Stable, Bernstein was purchased for $925,000 by agent Demi O’Byrne at the 1997 Keeneland November sale, the highest price of the sale for a weanling. Trained by Aidan O’Brien for a partnership that included Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, and Moran, Bernstein appeared to possess talent commensurate with his price, but that promise was never truly fulfilled on the racetrack.

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He won his first two starts at 2, including the prestigious Group 2 Railway Stakes, but finished only fifth, though beaten less than four lengths, behind champion Sinndar in the Group 1 National Stakes. Never sighted behind King’s Best and Giant’s Causeway in the 2000 Guineas the next spring, he returned to sprinting and won the six-furlong Shergar Cup at Ascot, but was thoroughly outrun in the Group 1 Nunthorpe over five furlongs. Bernstein closed his Irish career with a victory in the Group 3 Concorde Stakes over seven furlongs, but finished fifth in his only North American start behind Brahms in the nine-furlong River City Handicap.

Bernstein began his stud career in 2001 at Doug Arnold’s Buck Pond Farm, but later transferred to Castleton Lyons. He built a reputation in the United States as a solid but not spectacular stallion, with 49 North American-sired stakes winners, but until the last three years, his best American offspring was probably 2008 Grade 1 Alcibiades Stakes winner Dream Empress (out of Chinese Empress, by Nijinsky II). Then his Japanese-bred but American-conceived son Karakontie (Sun is Up, by Sunday Silence) proved himself one of the best milers in Europe with a victory in the French 2000 Guineas equivalent and topped that with an upset win in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Tepin (Life Happened, by Stravinsky) repeated that feat last fall at Keeneland – giving Bernstein his second consecutive Breeders’ Cup Mile winner – and her Jenny Wiley win was her fourth Grade 1 and fifth consecutive victory. Tepin is the fourth foal out of Life Happened, an unraced half-sister to the high-class Maryland sprinter Disco Rico, by Citidancer. Winner of 9 of 17 starts and $532, 244, Disco Rico was perhaps the most talented of a long line of Maryland stars descending from his fifth dam, Noble Nurse, by Count Fleet, whose tail-female descendants also include champion sprinter Smoke Glacken, good Maryland sire Noble Jay, and Grade 2 winner Miss Slewpy.

Bred by Carrie and Greg Brogden’s Machmer Hall, Tepin was purchased for $140,000 by Robert Masterson at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale. She is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner Vyjack, by Into Mischief, and a full sister to graded stakes-placed Prime Cut, by Bernstein.

Tepin is inbred 4x4 to the ubiquitous Northern Dancer, but also carries a 4x4 double of the great Round Table, a far more unusual duplication.

Bernstein’s shuttle career in Argentina was nothing short of sensational. Four champions – led by Argentine Horse of the Year Storm Mayor (Maya Toss, by Egg Toss) and 16 Group 1 winners – paved the way to those two Argentine sire championships.

Bernstein, who looked very much like his sire but with slightly better but not perfect forelegs, is a full brother to Grade 3 winners Caress, dam of Grade 1 winner and good sire Sky Mesa, and Country Cat, and a half-brother to Grade 2 winner Della Francesca, by Danzig, which goes a long way toward explaining his weanling sale price. His dam, La Affirmed, by Affirmed, was a half-sister to champion 2-year-old filly Outstandingly, by Exclusive Native, and his fourth dam, Busanda, by War Admiral, was dam of the great racehorse and sire Buckpasser.

Karakontie is now at stud at Gainesway and some of Bernstein’s best Argentine sons are at stud in that country, but it remains to be seen whether he will establish his own branch of the Storm Cat male line. Other than that, he has done everything one could ask.