02/13/2016 4:54PM

Tepin looks every bit the champion in Endeavour Stakes

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Tom Keyser
Tepin and jockey Julien Leparoux win the Grade 3 Endeavour Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths Saturday.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Trainer Mark Casse showed up to Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday in a sharp-looking suit, which only made sense since he was sure to get his picture taken. Casse sent out Tepin, the champion female grass runner of 2015, to an easy and popular 3 1/2-length victory in the Grade 3, $150,000 Endeavour Stakes on Saturday, her first start since beating males in the Breeders’ Cup Mile on Oct. 31.

With regular rider Julien Leparoux aboard, Tepin ran in second place early in the 17th running of the Endeavour, tracking the pedestrian pace of Lovely Loyree, who led the field of six older fillies and mares through a quarter-mile in 24.19 seconds and a half-mile in 50.17. The field bunched up heading into the final turn of the 1 1/16-mile race, but at the furlong pole, jockey Julien Leparoux gave Tepin ($2.60) her cue, and she easily drew off to finish in 1:42.91 on a firm turf course.

“She relaxed beautifully,” Leparoux said. “At the quarter pole, I just asked her. I never whipped her, but I asked her to finish. It was just a perfect race for her to come back. She’s amazing.”

“She got away with a slow pace,” Casse said. “That’s what’s so great about her. Julien can kind of do whatever he needs to do. If they’re running fast, she’ll sit back, and if they’re running slow, she’ll relax. You’re always nervous coming back, but she’s back.”

Casse said Tepin will be pointed to the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile on April 15 at Keeneland, where she again will face males. Last fall, Tepin won the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes on the Keeneland turf course before scoring in the Breeders’ Cup Mile there.  

“She kind of likes Keeneland,” Casse said with a smile.

Tepin had a remarkable season in 2015, winning five of seven starts and finishing second in her two losses. She won the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile in May and the Grade 1 Just a Game in June before losing the Grade 1 Diana by a nose to Hard Not to Like and the Grade 2 Ballston Spa by a head to Dacita. Tepin, a 5-year-old Bernstein mare owned by Robert E. Masterson, has won eight of 16 career starts for $2,565,973.

Lady Lara finished second in the Endeavour, half a length ahead of Lovely Loyree, who held third by a neck over Photo Call. They were followed by Bureau de Change and Lexie Lou, the 2014 Canadian Horse of the Year, who has now disappointed in two starts at the meet following a long layoff.