HERE is a superb read by Denali Stud’s CRAIG BANDOROFF, who attended Royal Ascot this week to watch Tepin win the Gr1 Queen Anne Stakes.
Sometimes people ask me why I don’t write more often because they enjoy reading what I write. I guess honestly because I feel like “who cares what I have to say on the subject” or maybe because I’d rather just wait until something really moves me.
On Tuesday, my wife Holly and I attended Royal Ascot as part of the Tepin entourage. Tepin’s owners, Robert and Joan Masterson, have been friends and clients of ours for over 30 years, and they became–with a few others–our first clients when we started Denali Stud in 1990.
Royal Ascot is indeed a very special place. You are reminded how special as you sit in traffic approaching it on a beautiful English road, pass the storybook-like Windsor Castle, and then see the magnificent Ascot structure once you arrive. Perhaps there is a more beautiful or impressive place where horse racing is held but, if so, I haven’t seen it. Perhaps there is a place with more beauty, class, pageantry, and display of wealth, but if so, I haven’t seen that either. The ambience and magnificence of the place has to be experienced rather than described.
Craig and Holly Bandoroff.
Let me be clear that I am simply a member of the Tepin entourage. I get no credit whatsoever. I didn’t pick her out (David and Deuce Greathouse did). I didn’t raise or consign her (Carrie and Craig Brogden did). But, fortunately, I have had the good fortune to attend many of her races and get to know her a little bit. And for that I’m eternally grateful.
People often ask me how I got into the horse business and I answer that I was born with a gene that made me love horses. I have been enthralled with them, admired them, and been in awe of them from the time I can remember as a young boy. Their power, beauty, gracefulness, and willingness-to-please personality have always mesmerized me.
You all know how special a racehorse Tepin is and what she has accomplished, so I won’t recount her exploits here. The idea to run at Ascot was the dream and vision of Robert Masterson. However, somehow I think if he could have asked Tepin if she was ready for the challenge and whether she wanted to go, she would have answered with a resounding yes. But since we can’t ask these noble athletes if they want to undertake an ultimate test, we have to wait for the answer until the gates open and the race begins.
In what has now become a long career in the horse industry, there are three races that gave me that unbelievable out-of- body experience and feeling that some of you know and I hope others will experience one day. Animal Kingdom’s Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup victories are two.
But with those races he was superior to his competition and won easily. The result was never in doubt as the end of the race neared.
The third was Tepin’s race on Tuesday in the G1 Queen Anne Stakes. A race no American-based horse has ever won and emulating only the great Goldikova (Ire) in winning a Breeders Cup race and the Queen Anne. In racing there is very rarely unanimity about anything.
But on raceday–everything I heard or read anywhere–everyone thought Tepin had it all going against her. The ground was softer and the straight, undulating mile were conditions unlike she had ever seen. The long trip to England, the foreign surroundings, and training and pre-race routine, were unlike anything she had ever done. Her jockey had never ridden in Europe let alone the course and her trainer had never shipped or run a horse in Europe. Oh and of course, no drugs, no nasal strip.
Tepin and connections in the winner’s circle at Royal Ascot.
I knew when Tepin arrived in the paddock it was “game on” from her demeanour and the look in her eye. She arrived to be saddled and was immediately taken into a holding stall where her equipment was checked and she patiently waited and sized up the completion as they paraded by her.
Although, of course we wanted a win for her, I think the consensus in our camp was a credible showing in the soft conditions would be a victory of sorts. To say the Casse team had her prepared to the “T” and that Julien Leparoux rode the perfect race would be an understatement. But what made the race great was the courage and determination and the not-to -be-denied performance Tepin put up. She broke sharply and Julien positioned her perfectly. Held in reserve, as you must to win these European-style races, she produced the brilliance when called on. And then it was gut check time. Two furlongs out she looked to be in command. With a furlong to go I got scared she wouldn’t hold on. But then as the last hundred yards unfolded, she did what every two- and four-legged champion does. She reached down a little further, a little deeper, a little harder and displayed the courage, the “heart of a lion” determination and will to win. She repelled the challenge of Belardo, once again defeating colts and exhibiting why we love this sport and these noble animals.
There are several great sub-stories to the Tepin saga. Certainly one of the most impactful involved David and Deuce picking her out and David sadly leaving us too soon. Another is the father/son collaboration of the Casses. The other is who Tepin is and who owns her. These type of horses come along infrequently. We all know how hard they are to come by, whoever you are. At the elite level to which she has ascended, I call her kind a “gift from God.” You don’t expect to have one or necessarily deserve to have one like this, but some greater authority decides you will be the lucky recipient. I believe she has shown us that she is in that class.
She is raced by a couple who have raced horses for over 30 years and truly understand the incredible gift they have received. It was a great sportsman’s challenge to take Tepin to Royal Ascot. That was acknowledged by everyone. I have never heard Robert or Joan in public or private ever say anything but “It’s about Tepin, we are merely her custodians.”
But aren’t we all glad Robert and Joan stuck to their dream and their plan? I know in the last hundred yards when I saw her stride shorten, her head come up a touch and her ears go back even flatter on her head, that I was watching an elite athlete reach down a little deeper, a little further and seem to say to her worthy adversary, “not today big boy, not today.” It’s like she said to us all, you want to know why you love horses, why you love horse racing? Here’s why. Greatness doesn’t come around very often. That’s what’s so great about it.
Originally published on TDN.