03/10/2016 1:30PM

Tepin, trainer Mark Casse face classy field in Hillsborough Stakes

Tom Keyser
In her first start on the Tampa Bay Downs turf, Tepin won the Endeavour Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Tepin made it look easy in her first start on the Tampa Bay Downs turf course last month, drawing off under brief, minimal urging from jockey Julien Leparoux to win the Grade 3 Endeavour Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths. She’ll have to work significantly harder to prevail Saturday in the Grade 2, $200,000 Hillsborough Stakes, where she’ll meet a trio of formidable contenders trained by Chad Brown and Todd Pletcher, who each have enjoyed great success in this race.

The 18th edition of the Hillsborough, a 1 1/8-mile grass race, drew a field of 10 older fillies and mares, including Ball Dancing and Danza Cavallo for Brown and Isabella Sings for Pletcher. Brown won the race last year with Stephanie’s Kitten and in 2012 with Zagora. Pletcher struck in 2013 with Old Tune, 2010 with Phola, 2007 with Cassydora, and 2006 with Ready’s Girl.

Trainer Mark Casse has never won the Hillsborough, but he’s clearly holding the trump card in Tepin, who won an Eclipse Award as the top female grass runner of 2015. As a 4-year-old last year, she beat males in the Breeders’ Cup Mile to cap a 5-for-7 season in which she never finished worse than second and won four graded stakes for owner Robert E. Masterson.

Since capturing the Endeavour on Feb. 13, Tepin has had just two slow half-mile breezes at Palm Meadows, but Casse said the mare is sitting on ready.

“She’s doing great,” Casse said. “We haven’t done a lot with her since her last start, but we’ve done enough. I thought her last race was good. She’s on her game. She’s fired up and ready to go.”

Ball Dancing and Danza Cavallo will be making their 5-year-old debuts in the Hillsborough.

Ball Dancing finished second in this race last year and won the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley in her next start. She hasn’t raced since finishing eighth behind the victorious Tepin in the Grade 1 Just A Game in June, but she’s fired two recent bullet five-furlong workouts at Palm Meadows.

Danza Cavallo will be looking for her first graded stakes win, having finished second in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl and Grade 3 Long Island Handicap in her final two starts of 2015.

“Both of my horses are training well,” Brown said. “I have a lot of respect for Tepin. She’s a great racemare, but I have to get my horses started, they’re doing well, and I’ve had a lot of luck at Tampa, particularly in the Hillsborough, so I circled that race a long time ago, and I was going to run regardless of who else went in there.”


Tepin, by Bernstein

Last 3 Beyers: 99-110-109

◗ Her best effort wins this race, but keep an eye on her in the post parade. After the Endeavour, she appeared to be overheating in the winner’s circle, and her connections urged the track photographer to take the picture quickly. The weather forecast calls for a high temperature of 83 degrees Saturday.

“I know it’s supposed to be a little warm,” Casse said. “It’s definitely a concern. It’s something we’ll monitor, but I think we’ll be okay.”

Isabella Sings, by Eskendereya

Last 3 Beyers: 99-84-95

◗ This Pletcher trainee has been idle since winning the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere in November. The runner-up, Rainha Da Bateria, also returns in this spot. Isabella Sings shows a steady work pattern at Palm Beach Downs for her return.

Ball Dancing, by Exchange Rate

Last 3 Beyers: 90-100-100

◗ Trainer Brown and jockey Javier Castellano have teamed to win at a 31 percent clip since the start of 2015, with a healthy $2.47 return on investment.

Danza Cavallo, by Sunday Break

Last 3 Beyers: 97-100-97

◗ Like Ball Dancing, she turned in a bullet five-furlong workout at Palm Meadows last Saturday.

Button Down, by Oasis Dream

Last 3 Beyers: 95-98-97

◗ She will be making her first start since winning the Grade 3 Cardinal Handicap over yielding turf in November at Churchill Downs.