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Trailing Runaway Isabella Sings by 18 Lengths, Tepin Rallies to Win G2 Hillsborough Stakes

Trailing runaway pace-setter Isabella Sings by more than 18 lengths up the backstretch, Tepin gobbled up ground like a freight train under jockey Julien Leparoux en route to a one-length victory in the Grade II, $200,000 Hillsborough Stakes that rekindled memories of Personal Ensign’s dramatic comeback victory in the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Her time for the mile-and-an-eighth was a turf course-record 1:46.26, bettering Special Envoy’s 2015 course standard.

Tepin, which won the Grade III Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes here four weeks ago, caught Isabella Sings with enough to spare to post a one-length margin. She paid $2.80 as the heavy betting favorite in the 10-horse field. The third-place finisher was 90-1 shot Lovely Loyree, trained locally by Michele Boyce and ridden by Fernando De La Cruz.

The scene in the winner’s circle was surreal, as photographers vied for position to shoot Tepin as she returned from her stupendous victory. The emotion was sky-high, even from fans who vowed not to cash their winning $2 tickets.

An emotional trainer Mark Casse, whose father, Florida breeding and sales industry leader Norman Casse, died Monday, expressed his emotions in one word: “Relief.

“I was a little worried after the first quarter-mile, but I’m happy,” Casse said. “I’m always nervous. It’s funny, the distance worked in our favor today. She’s quite a horse. She can do a little bit of everything; that’s what makes her so amazing.”

Owner Robert Masterson also struggled for words. “She is older, smarter, and more relaxed,” he said. “She doesn’t have to be on the lead now, or close to the lead. She can sit back and pick her spot. At the top of the lane she was still eight lengths behind, but she’s got the biggest turn of foot you’ll see in the last eighth.”

Leparoux, who has ridden the daughter of Bernstein-Life Happened in each of her last nine starts, didn’t rush her despite Isabella Sings’ huge lead. “I knew (Isabella Sings) was going fast, but when that happens, you almost have to not pay attention to the one in front,” he said. “My horse had to fight hard today, which is good. I didn’t whip her because I could feel she was running for me. She had to have a big race to win, and she did.”

Velazquez knew the winner was something special before the race; more so, afterward. “Todd (Pletcher) said to me ‘When (Isabella Sings) breaks, drop your hands down and let her go as fast as she can. That’s her weapon.’ So I didn’t take a hold of her and I let her do her own thing.

“It was a great effort by my horse and I think if she had a little race before, she would have been even tougher. I’m not surprised (by Tepin). How are you going to be surprised by that?”

Tepin is now 9-for-17 lifetime and the winner’s purse of $120,000 upped her career bankroll to $2,685,973.

Hillsborough Stakes Quotes
Winning trainer Mark Casse: “Relief. I was a little worried after the first quarter, but I’m happy. I’m always nervous. It’s funny, the distance worked in our favor today. She’s quite a horse. She can do a little bit of everything; that’s what makes her so amazing.”

Winning jockey Julien Leparoux: “I knew (Isabella Sings) was going fast, but when that happens, you almost have to not pay attention to the one in front. Johnny (Velazquez) came back a little at the half-mile pole, but my horse had to fight hard today, which is good. I didn’t whip her because I could feel she was running for me. She had to have a big race to win, and she did.”

Winning owner Robert Masterson: “She is older, smarter, and more relaxed. She doesn’t have to be on the lead now, or close to the lead. She can sit back and pick her spot. Words can’t describe this. At the top of the lane she was still eight lengths behind, but she’s got the biggest turn of foot you’ll see in the last eighth.”

Runner-up jockey John Velazquez: “”Todd (Pletcher) said to me ‘When she (Isabella Sings) breaks, drop your hands down and let her go as fast as she can. That’s her weapon.’ So I didn’t take a hold of her and let her do her own thing. It was a great effort and I think if she had a little race before this one, she would have been even tougher. I’m not surprised (by Tepin). How are you going to be surprised by that?”

Source: Tampa Bay Downs

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