By Ben Massam
Robert Masterson’s Tepin (Bernstein), champion turf mare of the past two years, will miss an expected start in Saturday’s GIII Lambholm South Endeavour S. at Tampa Bay Downs due to a minor bout with colic, trainer Mark Casse confirmed Monday. The bay, who gained international acclaim for her wins in prestigious races such as the 2015 GI Breeders’ Cup Mile and the 2016 G1 Queen Anne S., was in fine condition as of Monday morning, according to Casse.
“It’s really not a big deal,” Casse said. “She does this every now and then to us. She did it the day we entered her for the [GII] Hillsborough last year, but she came right out of it. She just got a little gassy yesterday and was acting kind of funny. I was there with her and watched her, and we went ahead and gave her a little something to give her some relief. At that point in time, we said, ‘You know what, it’s been one thing after another with her trying to make this race.’ We missed a work with weather, and sometimes, you just have to say it’s not working. It’s not the end of the world.”
Casse added that the colic incident was “about as minor as it gets,” but troublesome enough to put her weekend plans on hold. Tepin was scheduled to breeze Monday as a final tune-up for her seasonal debut in the Endeavour, which she captured in 2016 as well. Casse said he has spoken about future plans in general terms with Masterson, who is open to the possibility that his mare could face male rivals again in her next start.
“I still have to talk [more] to Mr. Masterson, but after reviewing some stuff and looking at it, I think if all goes well, we may look at the Canadian Turf [GIII, Gulfstream Park, Mar. 4] for her. She’s one-for-one at Gulfstream over their turf course, and it gives us a little more time. So that’s our new goal.”
Casse’s audible with Tepin’s plans comes just three days after his other stable star, 2016 champion juvenile colt Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile) finished a head-scratching third as the heavy favorite in Gulfstream’s GII Lambholm South Holy Bull S. With Classic Empire emerging from the race in seemingly fine condition, Casse said he is unable to pinpoint the exact reason behind his 8 3/4-length defeat behind undefeated ‘TDN Rising Star’ Irish War Cry (Curlin). Classic Empire became noticeably washy in the post parade and balked when approaching the starting gate.
“We don’t know what upset him,” Casse said. “He’s one of the smartest horses I’ve ever trained, but every now and then something upsets him. We don’t really know, but [Sunday] he was as happy as can be.”
As for future plans for Classic Empire, Casse said he will try to control as many variables as possible–including a longer period of time for the two-time Grade I winner to acclimate to his surroundings.
“We’d like to get two more races in,” Casse explained. “Wherever we decide to run him, he’s going to go and be there for a little bit. We shipped him down the morning of the race [Saturday], and we won’t do that again.”
Casse previously suggested that he would likely ship the bay out of South Florida for his next start, but did not rule out the possibility of another try at Gulfstream Monday. Regardless of the decision, the eight-time Sovereign Award winning trainer said that his charge remains a work in progress.
“This is not the first time he’s thrown a curve ball at us,” Casse joked, alluding to Classic Empire wheeling and losing his jockey at the start of last summer’s GI Hopeful S. “This time it was a slider. We just have to practice some more.”