03/12/2016 6:09PM

Tepin delivers as heavy favorite in Hillsborough

Tom Keyser
Tepin pays $2.80 as the favorite in the $200,000 Grade 2 Hillsborough Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

Tepin asserted her class when overcoming a huge margin built by Isabella Sings in setting a turf-course record Saturday in the 18th running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Hillsborough at Tampa Bay Downs.

Winner of the 2015 Eclipse Award for top female turf runner, Tepin finished a length ahead of Isabella Sings before returning $2.80 as the heavy favorite in a field of 10 fillies and mares. It was another five lengths back to Lovely Loyree, a 90-1 outsider.

Jockey Julien Leparoux sat unfazed aboard Tepin as Isabella Sings, remarkably, sped off by more than 15 lengths midway through the 1 1/8-mile Hillsborough. Tepin had the others beat as Leparoux began asking her to reel in Isabella Sings entering the final turn, and she was along in time for her fourth straight victory when finishing in 1:46.26 over a firm course. The former record was 1:46.40.

“I knew [Isabella Sings] was going fast, but when that happens, you almost have to not pay attention to the one in front,” said Leparoux. “I kind of had to ride my filly. I was so glad at the half-mile pole, I saw Johnny come back to us a little bit. She had to fight hard today. She had to have a big race to win.”

Tepin, a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred mare by Bernstein, is owned by Robert Masterson and trained by Mark Casse. Last fall at Keeneland, Tepin defeated males in the Breeders’ Cup Mile in clinching her divisional Eclipse, and Casse said after the Hillsborough he will consider another run versus males at Keeneland when the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile is held April 15. The logical alternative is the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley versus her own gender on the April 9 Blue Grass Stakes undercard at Keeneland, said Casse.

Tepin now has won seven of her last nine starts, with the two defeats coming in tight photo finishes. Overall, the mare now has won 9 of 16, with the Hillsborough winner’s share of $120,000 lifting her bankroll to $2,685,973.

Isabella Sings, ridden by John Velazquez and trained by Todd Pletcher, was the 7-1 third choice when making her first start since going gate-to-wire in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere at Churchill Downs at 27-1 in late November. Clear from the opening strides, the 4-year-old Isabella Sings set fractions of .23.49 seconds, 45.95, 1:09.15, and 1:34.08 before finally yielding late.

The $2 exacta (6-1) paid $15.60, the $1 trifecta (6-1-5) returned $123.40, and the 10-cent superfecta (6-1-5-4) was worth $87.90.

Pletcher ran one-two in the following race when Destin beat stablemate Outwork in the Tampa Bay Derby.

– additional reporting by Nick Fortuna