By Nicholas Godfrey 12:00AM 9 OCT 2016
Report: USA, Saturday
Keeneland: First Lady Stakes (Grade 1) 1m, turf, 3yo+ f/m
IN a shock result, Tepin’s winning streak was brought to an end at eight after a bizarre race as 29-1 shot Photo Call (Todd Pletcher/Kent Desormeaux) was given far too much rope by her rivals and duly landed what can only be regarded as a massive upset.
A Grade 1 winner in her own right over longer trips, Photo Call was sent straight to the front from the outside post by Kent Desormeaux, who set a decent enough enough gallop and was allowed to establish a clear lead.
The runaway leader was fully ten lengths ahead at the far turn, by which time the others seemed to realise that perhaps it wasn’t such a great idea handing out a huge advantage to such a strong stayer.
Julien Leparoux asked Tepin to make a move, and the Royal Ascot winner easily took second. The damage had been done, however: Photo Call was still eight lengths to the good at the head of the stretch, and Tepin never looked likely to close her down.
The $ 400,000 event was stolen by two-and-three-quarter lengths, with Tepin clear second-best three-and-a-half lengths ahead of third-placed Celestine and the Jeremy Noseda-trained Nemoralia a never-nearer fourth. Ireland’s No Nay Never was eighth.
Leparoux will doubtless face criticism for letting the winner get away. “I had to ride my own race,” he said. “The winner got loose on the lead but other than that we had a good trip. There wasn’t much I could do on the backside – I can’t move that early.
“I can’t take anything away from the winner. The winner ran a big race and my filly ran a big race, too. She’s still Tepin. She is still an amazing filly. She ran her race.”
Norman Casse, assistant trainer to his father Mark, said the First Lady was only a stepping stone towards Tepin’s defence of her Breeders’ Cup crown at Santa Anita. “We hoped for the best, but this is why we picked this race in particular,” he said.
“We didn’t really want to run her ‘A’ race today. The goal has always been the Breeders’ Cup Mile, a repeat there. I haven’t lost any confidence in her – I think we are still set up to do that and she’ll move forward from this race.
“At the top of the lane you could tell that horse had too much of a lead and she kicked away. I just think she got away from us a little bit and that’s all it is. This is horse racing. I just think the other horse had a better trip and things went her way and we got beat today.”
Desormeaux admitted he had ignored instructions from trainer Todd Pletcher on the winner. “I’m sorry, Todd,” he said. “He told me to cover her up, but that wasn’t possible. That was not going to happen. She was really full of herself. She was a pleasure to ride.”
Also on Saturday
Belmont Park: Flower Bowl Stakes (Grade 1) 1m2f, turf, 3yo+ f/m
Lady Eli (Chad Brown/Irad Ortiz), who beat the Europeans in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf two years ago, heads back to Santa Anita for the Filly & Mare Turf in a month’s time on the back of a determined victory in this $ 500,000 contest.
The four-year-old forfeited her unbeaten record in Grade 2 company at Saratoga in August when she returned to the track following a 14-month absence through a life-threatening bout of laminitis after she stepped on a nail.
Showing the benefit of that run, Lady Eli gamely held Sentiera Italia by three-quarters of a length to claim the Flower Bowl – a race her trainer has now won four times in six years. The winner, landing the third Grade 1 success of her career, was sent off a 17-20 favourite.
Belmont Park: Champagne Stakes (Grade 1) 1m, dirt, 2yo
A thrilling battle for New York’s top two-year-old race. The favourite Syndergaard fought off west-coast visitor Big Gray Rocket in a breakneck pace duel, only for late-running Practical Joke (Chad Brown/Joel Rosario) to range upsides at the furlong marker. Despite the hot early pace, Syndergaard gamely attempted to hold off the challenger – only to get edged out by a nose.
Keeneland: Woodford Stakes (Grade 3) 5½f, turf, 3yo+
Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Mongolian Saturday (Enebish Ganbat/Carlos Montalvo) made his first US start of the year a winning one, breaking fast from gate 12 and sitting close to a scorching pace before asserting in the stretch as the 9-2 favourite. The six-year-old was running for the first time since a trip to Britain in the summer, when he was unplaced in both the King’s Stand Stakes and July Cup.
Santa Anita: Santa Anita Sprint Championship (Grade 1) 6f, dirt, 3yo+
Lord Nelson (Bob Baffert/Flavien Prat) will be the west coast’s leading contender for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint back here on November 5 after completing a Grade 1 hat-trick with a comfortable two-and-a-half-length victory.