LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Trainer Graham Motion admitted to wondering whether he had selected the right Keeneland event in which to bring back his stable's star filly, Miss Temple City, off her winter layoff, as she faced males for the first time in the Grade 1, $300,000 Maker's 46 Mile.
"These plans always seem like a really good idea when you do them, but as you get closer to the race, you sort of wonder if it was such a good idea," Motion said.
It turned out to be a great idea, as Miss Temple City became the first filly to win the Maker's 46 Mile in its 28 runnings, scoring a signature victory and perhaps punching her ticket back to the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting before a crowd of 17,645 on a sunny Friday afternoon in Kentucky.
"She's just a big, strong, filly," Motion said of Miss Temple City ($14.60), who was making her first start since October. "She's actually grown up a lot over the winter. She's bigger and stronger than she was last year. I'm really impressed with her, to be honest."
Motion also paid tribute to Eclipse Award winner Tepin, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Mile over the Keeneland course last fall. Miss Temple City contested the Maker's 46 Mile rather than take on the reigning champion in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley Stakes on Saturday at Keeneland, a race for which Miss Temple City was cross-entered.
"[The Maker's 46 Mile] was a very wide-open race," Motion said. "I didn't really want to run against Tepin in [Miss Temple City's] first race back this year. She's probably the best miler in the country."
As expected, an honest pace in the Maker's 46 Mile was ensured by the front-running Heart to Heart, who was riding a three-race win streak in graded stakes, and multiple Grade 1-placed Shining Copper, who served as a rabbit for champion and former stablemate Big Blue Kitten last year. The two were away quickly and held a clear margin over the field through an opening half-mile of 46.03 seconds, as Miss Temple City and Drayden Van Dyke saved ground while sitting in third, just more than three lengths back.
"It set up beautifully," Motion said. "Drayden was in a great spot. It could not have set up better. He rode her beautifully. He was patient on her."
Miss Temple City began ranging up on the outside of the leaders around the far turn and kicked into high gear once straightened away in the lane. While Shining Copper faded, Heart to Heart fought on gamely. However, the filly had his measure and powered clear late to win by 1-1/4 lengths. The final time for the mile on turf rated "firm" was 1:34.09.
"[When I asked her], she took off like a rocket," Van Dyke said. "She's such a nice filly."
After Heart to Heart, it was another 1-1/4 lengths back to Tourist, sent away as a slight favorite, in third.
"We broke so sharp that by the first turn, we were already in front, so we were committed to being on the lead," Julien Leparoux said of Heart to Heart's trip. "We did go a little bit quick, but he fought the whole time and ran a huge race. He tried hard."
This was the first graded stakes victory for Miss Temple City, a daughter of Temple City who ran very well in two defeats at Keeneland last year. She finished second to the unbeaten Lady Eli in the Grade 3 Appalachian Stakes last spring, then was a tough-trip second, beaten a head, in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup last October in her 2015 finale.
A return to Royal Ascot, which takes place in June in England, is likely for Miss Temple City. The filly made the trip last year and was a creditable fourth, beaten less than two lengths, in the Group 1 Coronation Cup. That race was won by the well-regarded multiple Group 1 winner Ervedya, and second was Found, who went on to win the Breeders' Cup Turf.
"We all want to go back, but we wanted to go back, and know we belong," Motion said, adding that the filly will "most likely" have one more prep race, with the Grade 3 Gallorette Stakes on the Preakness undercard May 21 at Pimlico a leading candidate.
"It's close to home," said Motion, who is based at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland. "I don't want to have her [run] a hard race."