Consistency has been a hallmark for Live Oak Plantation's homebred World Approval throughout his career. With 13 on-the-board efforts from 19 starts to date, it is rare for the son of Northern Afleet to not come through with an admirable effort, regardless of the competition level.
It has been some time, however, since the 5-year-old gelding strung together back-to-back trips to the winner's circle. Starting his 2017 campaign off in smashing fashion last month, the veteran gray runner will try to duplicate that top-level form when he headlines a field of 10 in the $250,000 Longines Dixie Stakes (G2T) at Pimlico Race Course May 20.
World Approval has not won consecutive races since breaking his maiden and then taking the Sophomore Turf Stakes during his 3-year-old campaign in 2015. He did succeed in halting a three-race losing skid and earning his first victory since taking the 2016 United Nations Stakes (G1T) when he captured the April 2 EG Vodka Turf Classic Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs by 2 1/4 lengths.
While he was slated to run back in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes (G1T) May 6 at Churchill Downs, he was scratched when rain softened the turf course.
"We were just not happy with the turf at Churchill the other day in the Woodford, so we took him out with the idea of running him in here. We think he will really like it here," said Norman Casse, son of and chief assistant to trainer Mark Casse. "Trip is very paramount in turf racing. I don't think there is anything we ever read into why he hasn't run well in back-to-back races. We always think he comes over and runs his race. He's probably only ever run two bad races in his whole career—on the turf, anyway."
Casse added that World Approval "trained unremarkable" heading into his seasonal bow, which made the gelding's effort that day all the more impressive. Since he has been working like his old self leading into the 1 1/16-mile Dixie, Casse is hoping World Approval's tactical early speed will be even sharper this outing.
"We were looking for an easy race (at Tampa); it was the perfect spot for him. And then he ran back to his full potential," Casse said. "Since then he's been back working like the old World Approval. He probably even needed that race; it woke him up a little bit. Now we expect him to run even better.
"If you can sit a good trip, sitting close, you'll be awfully tough to beat if you're in the right spot and you get things your way."
Joining World Approval in the starting gate is stablemate Conquest Typhoon, who enters the Dixie off a win in an allowance race at Belmont Park earlier this month. It was the gelding's first win since March 2016.
"He's a horse that we've always thought the world of," Casse said. "We even went back and purchased him out of the sale when (Conquest Stables) had the dispersal. He was always a horse who worked really, really well, but he wasn't putting it all together so we gelded him. I think that last race was a true indicator of what he's capable of doing. It will be very interesting to see where he's at in stakes company."
Juddmonte Farms' homebred Projected enters the Dixie following an allowance victory over multiple grade 1 winner Divisidero at Keeneland in April, an effort that looks even better considering the latter came back to take the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes (G1T) earlier this month. Projected, a 5-year-old son of Showcasing, will be making his third start for Brown after beginning his career in France, where he won four of 11 starts.
"I've always liked Projected," Brown said. "He just took a while to come around. He ran a very good race this last time. He beat Divisidero in an allowance, and Divisidero came back and won a grade 1 in his next start, so Projected's form is very good. We've been pointing to the Dixie since that allowance race."
Trainer Graham Motion is bringing grade 1 winner Ring Weekend to the Dixie in an effort to improve on a neck runner-up finish in last year's edition of the race—an outing that marked his first start since being sidelined nearly 14 months due to a hoof abscess.
Since that effort, the 6-year-old gelded son of Tapit has eight starts and a pair of grade 2 wins, but is coming off a fourth-place run in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes (G1T) at Santa Anita Park March 11.
"He is a barn favorite and it's been a frustrating campaign for him this winter," Motion said. "One of his races came off the turf and was a disappointing result. I thought the last two fourth-place finishes were better than they look on paper. He wasn't beaten much at all and those were good efforts."
Pimlico Race Course, Saturday, May 20, 2017, Race 12
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Security Risk (KY) Florent Geroux 118 Claude R. McGaughey III 12/1 2 2World Approval (FL) Julien R. Leparoux 118 Mark E. Casse 7/2 3 3Top of Mind (KY) Victor R. Carrasco 118 Rodney Jenkins 15/1 4 4Projected (GB) Joel Rosario 118 Chad C. Brown 3/1 5 5One Mean Man (KY) Corey J. Lanerie 118 Bernard S. Flint 20/1 6 6Talk Show Man (MD) Trevor McCarthy 118 Hamilton A. Smith 30/1 7 7Blacktype (FR) Jose L. Ortiz 118 Christophe Clement 4/1 8 8Catapult (KY) Javier Castellano 118 Chad C. Brown 10/1 9 9Conquest Typhoon (ON) Mike E. Smith 118 Mark E. Casse 15/1 10 10Ring Weekend (KY) John R. Velazquez 118 H. Graham Motion 4/1
Pimlico Race Course, Saturday, May 20, 2017, Race 12