09/18/2016 11:09AM

Watchmaker: Great win for Tepin was still short of her best performance

Michael Burns
Tepin, with Julien Leparoux riding, got a 106 Beyer Speed Figure for her performance in winning the Woodbine Mile.

The 106 Beyer Speed Figure she was assigned falls pretty much into line with her best numbers, so some people might insist otherwise, but no matter what fig she got, Tepin did not run her best race in winning Saturday’s Woodbine Mile.

Now, before her legion of fans gets all worked up and drags out the pitchforks, let me add this:

It says a lot about Tepin – about her character and heart – that she could fall short of her best performance, and still beat seven male opponents in a Grade 1, $1 million race such as the Woodbine Mile. Many, many top horses over the years had days when, for whatever reason, they did not produce their best performances, and were beaten because of it. Not Tepin on Saturday.

So in that sense, Tepin’s win was more revealing, and maybe even worthy of more appreciation, than some of her victories when she was at the top of her game and blew out overmatched opposition.

Whether it was because this was her first start in three months, or first start since her successful journey to and from Royal Ascot, or because of the hot spell early in the Saratoga meet that appeared to set her back a bit, or the rain-slickened turf course that might have been trickier than many realize, or some combination of all of the above, the Tepin we all have come to know and appreciate wouldn’t have had to work as hard as she did to deny Tower of Texas.

Tower of Texas is a hard-hitting gelding and I’d love to own him, but he has a well-established ceiling, and that ceiling is well short of Tepin territory.
But on the plus side, even if Tepin was forced to dig deeper than anticipated Saturday, the outcome of the Woodbine Mile was never really in doubt once she sidled up to the lead in upper stretch. And I personally found it interesting that Tepin galloped out in front, never letting anyone else get by.
Tepin will face better company than she turned away Saturday in her next start at Keeneland, even if she opts for the First Lady over the Shadwell Turf Mile (they are both Oct. 8 at a mile), and she will of course face much better when she attempts a defense of her title in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. That means she will have to perform better. I have no doubt she will. Tepin is a champion.
Saturday notes:
* I was not surprised that Not This Time was much the best winning the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs. But I was still bowled over by his extremely impressive performance, which was, for my money, the best showing by a 2-year-old so far this year.

I was less taken with Not This Time being four to five wide all the way around the track than I was with the fact that even breaking in the air failed to compromise his performance by one iota. I think it was best to be away from the inside on Saturday’s off track at Churchill. Yet despite a poor start, Not This Time still won by almost nine lengths.

The most impressive thing about Not This Time is the way he finishes. In his maiden win going a mile at Ellis last month, Not This Time went his last quarter of a mile in 23.33 seconds, which is flying for a 2-year-old on dirt no matter how slow the early fractions were.

On Saturday, Not This Time completed his 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.22, which was a gaping 1.97 seconds faster than Daddys Lil Darling required to win the Pocahontas Stakes two races later. But that’s only the start of it.

The pace in the Iroquois to the half was 2.07 seconds slower than the pace of the Pocahontas. Yes, the Pocahontas fell apart late. But still, Not This Time did some serious running, all while barely being asked and with no competition whatsoever to prompt him, to close that time gap and fashion one of his own, essentially engineering a four-second turnaround.
Most impressive.

* Speaking of pace, the pace in Woodbine’s Northern Dancer was beyond laughable, with fractions of 26.97, 53.99, and 1:19.92.

It rained at Woodbine on Saturday, and the 1 1/2-mile distance of the Northern Dancer was considerably longer than the two other big turf stakes on the card, but neither factor is enough to explain these fractions.

The available corresponding fractions for the Canadian Stakes, run two races before the Northern Dancer, were 23.85 and 46.42. The fractions for the Woodbine Mile, run two races after the Northern Dancer, were 23.38, 46.41, and 1:10.45.

Obviously, the performances of the horses who were on or close to what passed for a pace in the Northern Dancer must be sharply devalued.

* We’re lucky to have some very, very good 3-year-old turf fillies this year, a group led by Catch a Glimpse and Time and Motion. You can also put the name On Leave, decisive winner of of the Sands Point at Belmont, near the top of the list.

The Sands Point was On Leave’s fourth straight victory and second straight stakes score. And while it is true she got loose early Saturday through easy fractions, I’m of the belief that this is not her preferred running style. I think On Leave is most effective closing. But what makes her so good (and dangerous) is she is versatile enough to adapt to different situations.