The heavy favorite in Saturday’s G1 Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland will be Tepin, last year’s overwhelming selection for Champion Female Turf horse. Eclipse voters had little choice after her 2015 campaign climaxed with a pair of romping victories on this course last fall, for which she was assigned TimeformUS Speed Figures that moved her into world class territory, as she ran comfortably into the 130s, faster than any other North American turf horse last year.
Tepin comes back to Lexington after a lovely winter in Florida that was something more than a vacation: after some post Breeders’ Cup R&R, she continued her winning ways with a pair of victories at Tampa Bay Downs. So it’s a testament to the quality of this Jenny Wiley field that we’re taking a long look at trying to beat her on Saturday. Before we go through the rest of the field, a few more comments to better contextualize Tepin and her accomplishments.
- Regarding her TimeformUS Speed Figure advantage: It’s substantial but not altogether gaudy, if you’re willing to look past those two races at Keeneland last fall. A big if, no doubt, but we note that Tepin’s dominance here last fall came over a turf course with a lot of give to to the ground; it was downright boggy for the First Lady, and even on BC Day it was far from lightning fast. The turf course at Keeneland this Saturday will likely be firmer after a week of dry conditions. And both of those big TFUS Figs were assigned after ideal trips for Tepin. In each of her races here last fall, Tepin deployed her natural speed to sit pretty, tracked the pace, disposed of the speed with a quarter mile to go, then comfortably held off all comers in the stretch. This is how Tepin wins races.
- Tepin is a fan favorite. She has won 4 straight, but is she an unbeatable monster? It’s useful to go back to her PPs from just a year ago. At this point last year, she had just won an allowance race at Gulfstream at 3-1, and was about to have something of a coming out party on the Kentucky Derby Day undercard, winning the Distaff Mile at 9/1. Still, Tepin was short of a sure thing for much of last year. She gutted out a win over Filimbi in the Just a Game on Belmont Day, then lost a pair of heartbreakers at Saratoga, caught from behind in each race, over firm turf courses. The Jenny Wiley field reminds us of these races in New York–it’s better than what she saw in Florida over the winter, and she’s not getting quite the type of ground she got at Keeneland last fall. Tepin is of course the most likely winner of The Jenny Wiley, but she showed us last year that she can lose against competition like this. Our inclination is to wager against her at even-money or less on Saturday.
Tepin’s biggest advantage on Saturday may be the race shape. Her high cruising speed works best when in the clear tracking a less-talented frontrunner, and that seems likely on Saturday. Here’s the TimeformUS Pace Projector, showing #8 Tepin sitting in second early behind #7 Illuminant, a 30/1 shot who is quick but unlikely to set a pace that compromises Tepin.
Let’s go through the rest of the field and see if we can find some candidates to upset Tepin on Saturday.
#1, Miss Temple City, scratches and will run on Friday to face Anyone But Tepin in the G1 Makers 46 Mile.
#2 is Akatea.
Our colleague Mark Milligan at the Mothership, Timeform in the UK, weighs in: “The winner of a Longchamp listed race in April last year, Akatea’s progress seemed to have stalled somewhat before she improved again in the autumn. While no match for the eased-down Ervedya when runner-up in September’s Prix du Moulin at Longchamp, she did finish one place ahead of 2014 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Karakontie, and then ran to a similar level when finishing third to Impassable in the Grade 2 Prix Daniel Wildenstein over the same course and distance the following month. In receipt of 5 pounds from Tepin, and with the possibility that the addition of Lasix may bring about further improvement, a forecast price of 8/1 about this still lightly-raced daughter of Shamardal looks fair value.” Now in the Christophe Clement barn, Akatea scratched from a March 24th allowance race at Gulfstream. Clement is one of the more successful trainers in the country with imports like this. We’re curious to see the price we get here. We agree with Timeform that she’s playable at that 8/1 morning line, but we wouldn’t accept less on a filly that will need to improve a few lengths to win.
#3 is Dacita.
The last time Tepin lost, it was to Dacita, in the Ballston Spa at Saratoga. Dacita was just that good that day, and she’ll be a threat to Tepin on any day that she runs that well again. In her two races since then, she hasn’t. Dacita took plenty of action in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, but she never threatened. Her trip was less than ideal, and she reportedly prefers firmer ground. We can forgive that effort, but perhaps it’s harder to forgive her race at odds of 3/5 in the mile and 3/16ths The Very One at Gulfstream last out. Under the whip before they turned for home, she never seemed a real threat to winner Olorda, and Olorda is no Tepin. There is a case to be made that Dacita is a closing miler who was put into chase mode too early last out, and with a change in tactics we could see the sort of race we saw in the Ballston Spa. Dangerous.
#4 is Recepta. Grade 1-placed in the Matriarch at Del Mar last fall, she developed beautifully last year, but we don’t like her chances off the layoff in a spot as tough as this one. Figures to get first run on Tepin. We think she’s in the mix here but comes up short. She’ll annex a G1 before the year is out.
#5 is Itsonlyactingdad. In late February, she gutted out a Gulfstream allowance win off an 8-month layoff, a good sign, albeit against far inferior horses. Her 2015 highlight was a good-trip second in the Belmont Oaks; we haven’t seen anything from her to indicate she’s the one who could knock off Tepin here.
#6 is Wekeela. Another one of those Chad Brown imports coming in off a considerable layoff (just as Dacita was, coming into the Ballston Spa). Our colleagues at Timeform have noted repeatedly she should prefer longer distances. We’ll pass in this spot.
#7 is Illuminant. Notched a 120 TimeformUS Speed Figure in her last race, a number that would put her in the mix if Tepin were to run less than her best, but Illuminant seems hard-pressed to repeat the 120: She ran it in a Santa Anita allowance in which she received the ideal ground-saving tracking trip off two longshots. If Pace Projector is right and she ends up with the lead here, it’s a tough spot for this filly to be in, as she figures to have Tepin hounding her as they approach the second turn. No thanks.
#9 is She’s Not Here. If Illuminant takes back, we wouldn’t be shocked to see this one go to the lead in an attempt to carve out the right trip given her outside post. That may be the best option, but she’s unlikely to be around at the end.
#10 is Tiger Ride. She comes in off a TimeformUS Speed Figure top on dirt, a 109 earned over a speed-biased Gulfstream track in the Inside Information Stakes. Closing for 2nd over that track is to be applauded. Her turf top was a 113 while winning a minor stakes race at Indiana Downs. We anticipate a new career-best effort today, and we don’t expect it to be enough.
We respect new shooter Akatea, but we want to take a shot that Dacita will return to her best in this spot. We also expect Tepin to show up with her “A” race.
Win bet: #3
Exacta Box: 3,8