Miss Temple City has been exceeding public expectations for most of her life, but perhaps never more so than when she put in a game effort during last year’s Royal Ascot. This year, she is back for the G2 Duke Of Cambridge Stakes on Wednesday.
In 2015, Miss Temple City shipped from America to run in the G1 Coronation Stakes. Racing commentators did not hold back when discussing her chances, or lack thereof, and she was dismissed as a hopeless 50-1 longshot who should not be competing.
“I was flabbergasted, actually,” said trainer Graham Motion. “I never imagined her not being a little bit respected because obviously I wouldn’t have been doing it if I thought it was a crazy thing to do. It’s not something you want to do just for the hell of it.”
In the end, Miss Temple City ran a solid fourth, beaten less than two lengths in a field of nine. In the past year, four of the top five finishers — Ervedya, Found, Miss Temple City and Arabian Queen — have gone on to win G1s against males.
“The form from that race is extraordinary,” said Motion. “The fact we came within a length or two, I think she definitely showed she belonged. Had things gone a little differently, I think perhaps she could have finished a little closer. I was thrilled she was competitive, but probably not as surprised as the English press was.”
Not embarrassed to stick by our convictions
The bookmakers are not making underestimating the filly this week. Miss Temple City is disputing second favouritsm at a general 8-1 for the £175,000 one-mile G2 behind strongly fancied French-trained, Godolphin-owned Usherette, generally a 2-1 shot.
Bloodstock agent Bob Feld bred Miss Temple City and owns her in partnership. The 4-year-old filly runs in the name of The Club Racing, Sagamore Farm, and Allen Rosenblum.
“I’ve been involved with horse racing forever, and I feel like The Club, we know our stuff,” Feld said. “I never did see the TV coverage, but I understand the commentators were completely making fun of her and calling us idiots. We do think outside the box, but we thought she belonged, and we are not embarrassed to stick by our convictions.
“If she didn’t come back so well last year and actually improve, we wouldn’t have thought about it this year. Some people are making fun of us for going back for a G2, but if I thought for half a second she was going to come back and be knocked out and not run the rest of the year, it would be a different story. We don’t think we are hindering her year by going back over.”
Star potential from an early age
Feld has been a believer in Miss Temple City since she was born. In fact, she was one of the foals Spendthrift Farm used to promote her sire, the Dynaformer stallion Temple City. In one such ad, Feld is quoted as saying: “I recently took a trip to see my Temple City filly, and I couldn’t be happier. She has star written all over her!”
Although Feld is an active member of the American racing scene, he is the sole breeder of one horse: Miss Temple City. He bought her dam, Glittering Tax, for a mere $6,000 at the 2011 Keeneland January mixed sale and sent her to Temple City, who was standing his first season for $5,000. The resulting foal, Miss Temple City, was offered at auction as a short yearling but failed to meet her reserve when bidding stopped at $10,000.
“I didn’t really breed Miss Temple City to race her,” he said. “I wanted to take part in Spendthrift’s Share the Upside deal with Temple City, where you had to breed one mare one time to get a lifetime breeding right. I needed a mare, and Glittering Tax was inexpensive. If she wasn’t in foal to Tiz Wonderful, I wouldn’t have bought her. I bought her basically knowing I could pay for her with that baby because of how the Tiz Wonderfuls were selling. It ended up being true — we sold the baby for $25,000 as a weanling privately.”
Memorable 2016 debut
Glittering Tax may have been a cheap purchase five years ago, but her value has since gone up. That Tiz Wonderful foal, Paganol, ended up selling for $250,000 as a 2-year-old in training, while Pricedtoperfection, a 3-year-old full sister to Miss Temple City, is a graded stakes winner. Feld has since sold majority ownership in Glittering Tax, who delivered a Verrazano filly earlier this year.
Feld also co-owns Five Each Way, Miss Temple City’s 2-year-old half-sister, who was named after the popular English bet as a nod to Royal Ascot. Five Each Way is in training with Motion, and is by Frankel’s half-brother Bullet Train, whose stud career is being managed by Feld’s son, Sean.
As for Miss Temple City, she made her 2016 debut memorable at Keeneland, becoming the first filly or mare ever to win the G1 Maker’s 46 Mile Stakes. Last fall, she finished second by a head in a controversial running of the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup over the same course.
To date, her fourth place finish in the Coronation Stakes is the “worst” placing of her career, and she has earned $562,799.
“It was so satisfying to go back and get our Grade 1 at Keeneland because she was so much the best the day we got beat in the QEII,” said Feld. “It’s been an unreal ride.”
Heading across the pond
A multitude of factors have led her connections to send Miss Temple City back to England. For starters, she is used to running without Lasix and has a temperament that is suited for travel.
“She is very talented and uncomplicated,” said Motion. “She doesn’t have any quirks, she’s pretty straightforward to ride, and she’s pretty adaptable. You can’t go over there with a b-stringer and hope to be competitive.”
Choosing to return to England was also a sporting decision. They easily could have run her for a much larger purse in the G1 Longines Just a Game Stakes, which Tepin won in 2015, during the Belmont Stakes undercard in New York.
“I think for both us and Tepin’s connections, Ascot was a big decision,” said Motion. “We had to pass up running in a $700,000 race, but at the end of the day it is not always about the money. It is about the challenge and the sport. We kind of lose sight of that sometimes.”
“It’s more of a sporting act than anything else,” said Feld, echoing those sentiments. “Royal Ascot is one of the most historic race meets of all time. I couldn’t tell you how many people last year told me, ‘I was screaming at the TV, we were all rooting for you.’
The extra significance for Graham Motion
“When you root for your country, it is so much different than rooting for your favorite jockey, trainer or horse. When a country is behind you, it is amazing, and to represent the United States is awesome.”
Although not a deciding factor in sending Miss Temple City back to England, the fact winning there would have extra significance for British-born Motion has not gone unnoticed by the filly’s connections.
“Without getting too personal about it, I have won the Kentucky Derby, I have won a couple of Breeders’ Cups and I have won the Dubai World Cup, but this is something that would really be the icing on the cake,” said Motion. “This is a Group 2, but to me that doesn’t really matter. To go home and win one of these races would be really gratifying.”
On Feld’s end, he would consider it a privilege to be part of the story if Motion were to win.
“We adore Graham, and we think he is quite the horseman,” said Feld. “I am rooting more for Graham than anything else. I know he would love to win a race over there, and I would love to be involved with it.”
No matter what happens at Royal Ascot, Miss Temple City’s connections are proud of their overachieving filly.
“This filly has obviously gotten pretty special to me, to have done the things she has done,” said Motion. “Ascot is so gracious about how they treat you, and everybody had such a great time last year. We all felt that, if the filly came back well this spring, we would love to take another shot. I think she certainly stamped her way by doing what she did at Keeneland. It was a cool thing to take on the boys in a Grade 1 and be able to pull it off like that.”
As for Feld, Miss Temple City has become a once-in-a-lifetime horse.
“It is surreal,” he said. “I’ve been lucky to be involved with some nice horses, but I’ve only had my name attached to one horse as sole breeder, and it’s her. Her mind is absolutely amazing. You can throw anything at her, and she is just chill. She is definitely somebody you would want to go out and have a drink with if she were human. She’s the coolest filly of all time, as far as I’m concerned.”