by Mike Henry

Everyone knows, or should, that you don’t tug on Superman’s cape; you don’t spit into the wind; you don’t pull the mask off that old lone ranger.

And, with apologies to the late, legendary folk singer and songwriter Jim Croce, you don’t mess around with Tepin.

The reigning Eclipse Award Champion Turf Female, who is expected to garner her second straight championship when the 2016 Eclipse winners are announced on Jan. 21 at Gulfstream Park, seemed to indicate this morning that everything is on track for a 2017 debut on Feb. 11 at Tampa Bay Downs in the Grade III, $150,000 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes.

Under her regular jockey, Julien Leparoux, Tepin breezed a half-mile today in 49 4/5 seconds over the Palm Meadows turf course in Boynton Beach, Fla.

Owner Robert Masterson and trainer Mark Casse have stated they hope to bring Tepin back to the races in the Endeavour, a race she won in the easiest fashion imaginable last year. She came back to Tampa Bay Downs a month later to capture the Grade II, $200,000 Hillsborough Stakes, reeling in Isabella Sings after the latter built an 18-length lead with a wicked pace.

 From Tampa Bay Downs, Tepin won three Grade/Group I stakes in three countries before closing out her year with a game second-place finish to Tourist in her bid to win back-to-back editions of the Breeders’ Cup Mile against males.

The just-turned 6-year-old mare is bound to draw a boatload of fans to the Oldsmar oval, but it’s anyone’s guess who from these here parts has the gumption to challenge her in the Endeavour.

From today forward, it’s the job of the Tampa Bay Downs Racing Office to help find challengers. And it’s entirely possible today’s Endeavour Prep, a mile-and-a-sixteenth turf event for older fillies and mares, might have unveiled suitable competition for a horse virtually assured of one day joining the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame roster.

Light In Paris, a 5-year-old Irish-bred mare owned by Martin S. Schwartz and trained by Chad Brown, staged a relentless rally to win today’s race by a long neck from pace-setter Royal Jewely in excellent time of 1:42.02. Lots o’ Lex was another neck back in third, followed by Laur Net.

Top Tampa Bay Downs jockey Daniel Centeno rode Light In Paris for his fourth victory on the card. She paid $5 to win as the wagering favorite.

Light In Paris had raced exclusively in France before being imported to the United States, where she was 0-for-3 before getting an 11-month break. Although it is premature to speculate on her potential, it is worth noting Schwartz and Brown won back-to-back Eclipse Awards in 2011 and 2012 with Champion Turf Females Stacelita and Zagora, both French-bred mares.

The latter-named won both the Endeavour and Hillsborough on the way to her Eclipse title, which she clinched with her Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf score at Santa Anita.

Decisions, decisions. The connections of the top three have almost five weeks to determine their next moves, but they might start working on their cape-tugging skills tomorrow.  

Around the oval. Centeno, who has 30 victories through the first 21 days of the meeting, kicked off his four-bagger by winning the first race on I’m Really Sumthin, a 6-year-old Florida-bred mare owned by Elaine Vinson and trained by John Vinson.

Centeno added the fourth race on Nightbar, a 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding bred and owned by Carolyn Wilson and trained by Larry Rivelli. He scored again in the seventh on What About Tonight, a 3-year-old filly owned by Pecoraro Racing Stable and trained by Anthony Pecoraro.

The second legs of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series, originally scheduled for Saturday, will be contested Wednesday as part of a 10-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. Both races will be contested at a distance of a mile-and-a-sixteenth.

The fourth race, for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward which have started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less in 2016-17, has drawn a field of nine. The morning-line favorite at 3-1 is 4-year-old filly Ballinskelligs, who has won four of eight lifetime starts including a victory here on Dec. 23 in a 1-mile claiming race on the turf.

Ballinskelligs was claimed from that race for $16,000 by her current trainer, Maria Bowersock, for new owner Ralph E. Whitney. Centeno has again been named to ride.

The Males Division of the Tampa Turf Test is the sixth race, also at a mile-and-a-sixteenth. The 3-1 morning-line choice is 5-year-old gelding Foxhall Drive, trained by Jamie Ness and to be ridden by Edwin Gonzalez.

The field includes 6-year-old gelding Big Daddy B, who won the first leg of the Males Division of the Tampa Turf Test on Nov. 26. He is trained by Pedro Sobarzo and will be ridden by Wilmer Garcia. His morning-line odds are 12-1.

Perhaps the most intriguing entrant is 8-year-old gelding Brother Pat, trained by Ron G. Potts and owned by The Elkstone Group and to be ridden by Leandro Goncalves. Brother Pat won all four legs of the Males Division of the Tampa Turf Test in 2015 while in the Ness barn, leading at every point of call in all four races (the third and fourth legs were switched from the turf to the main track because of weather and course conditions).

After making one more start for Ness under the trainer’s Jagger, Inc., banner, Brother Pat was sold privately and captured the Grade I Copa Barbosa three starts later at Camarero Race Track in Puerto Rico. Potts claimed him from a victory here last April, and Brother Pat has won four of his last nine starts.

Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.