World Approval in his stall at Del Mar ahead of the Breeders' Cup

World Approval in his stall at Del Mar ahead of the Breeders' Cup

Anne M. Eberhardt

World Approval Opens 2018 Season at Tampa Bay

Launched 2017 championship season at Tampa Bay Downs.

Champion turf male World Approval will make his 2018 debut at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 10, as trainer Mark Casse will use the $175,000 Tampa Bay Stakes (G3T) as a prep for the $6 million Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World (G1) March 31 at Meydan.

Tampa Bay Downs previously served World Approval well. It's the site of the Live Oak Plantation homebred's first stakes victory, the 2015 Sophomore Turf Stakes; and last year he launched his Eclipse Award-winning season with a victory in the EG Vodka Turf Classic Stakes. 

The Northern Afleet —Win Approval, by With Approval gelding will try for a third win in as many Tampa Bay starts when he opens his 6-year-old season Saturday in the 1 1/16-mile turf test. After opening 2017 at Tampa Bay, World Approval finished the year with three straight grade 1 wins, closing out the season with an authoritative victory in the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1T).  

Since wrapping up that championship campaign, World Approval got some rest at Charlotte Weber's Live Oak Plantation in Ocala, Fla. and more recently has been progressing toward the new racing season. 

"He got a couple of weeks of just doing nothing then they began bringing him back slowly on the farm," Casse said. "Then we brought him to Palm Meadows and he's been training nice and steady since he's been here. He's a professional; he understands what we want from him and he's been coming up to the race nicely."

After closing 2016 with three straight losses, Casse said World Approval regained traction during his season-opening win last April against other Florida-breds. 

"I think he sort of came into his own last year," the trainer said, "He's always had talent, we could see that early on; but there were times when he seemed to struggle. The last part of 2016 he seemed to just not be all together. 

"Then from the time we brought him out at Tampa in the spring last year he just seemed as though he was very confident and self assured. He had his act completely together, he knew it, and he liked it. You could see it in the way he trained, how he carried himself, how he acted on race day, he just became a complete horse."

In this trip to Tampa Bay, Casse hopes World Approval moves his fitness forward ahead of the first overseas trip of his career. The Dubai Turf is contested on Dubai World Cup day at Meydan.

"He's not totally fit but he's been training well and I'd say he's probably about 90% right now," Casse reported, "but he's a champion now, and you never want to see a champion get beat no matter what the circumstances. They say great horses can win races even when things are not all in their favor and I think World Approval's a great horse so I think he'll be right there."

Awaiting World Approval will be an expected nine rivals, including Juddmonte Farms' grade 2-placed Forge, and Phipps Stable homebred Fire Away, who will make his first start of the season after winning the Artie Schiller Stakes on the Aqueduct Racetrack turf to close 2017.

If all goes well Saturday, Casse plans on shipping World Approval to Dubai about two weeks before Dubai World Cup day.

"I asked a fella who's been going over there for a while for some advice and he said two weeks," Casse said, "His name is Baffert, and I figured with his record over there he'd be the guy to ask."

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has won four Dubai World Cup day races, including three editions of the Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airlines (G1), most recently taking last year's edition with Arrogate .

Entries: Tampa Bay S. (G3T)

Tampa Bay Downs, Saturday, February 10, 2018, Race 11

  • Grade IIIT
  • 1 1/16m
  • Turf
  • $175,000
  • 4 yo's & up
  • 5:25 PM (local)
PPHorseJockeyWgtTrainerM/L
11Doctor Mounty (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateAntonio A. Gallardo117Claude R. McGaughey III20/1
22Noble Thought (KY)Jesus Lopez Castanon117Malcolm Pierce15/1
33Fire Away (KY)Jose L. Ortiz117Claude R. McGaughey III8/1
44Cheyenne's Colonel (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateManoel R. Cruz117Derrick A. Parram50/1
55Western Reserve (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateDaniel Centeno117J. Kent Sweezey12/1
66Forge (GB)Manuel Franco117William I. Mott8/1
77World Approval (FL)John R. Velazquez124Mark E. Casse2/5
88Le Ken (ARG)Jose Lezcano117Ignacio Correas, IV20/1
99Tasit (PA)Joel Rosario117Michael R. Matz20/1
1010Brass Compass (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateRonald Dale Allen, Jr.117Reade Baker30/1