World Approval, 2017 champion turf male, will not head to Dubai to compete in the March 31 Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World (G1) but will stay in the U.S. and be pointed to grade 1 stakes going a mile, trainer Mark Casse said Feb. 12.
"I always was kind of worried about the distance," the trainer said. "We said all along that since he went to a mile, he's a much better horse. I thought his race the other day (grade 3 Tampa Bay Stakes) was good but it made me question how far he wants to go."
The Tampa Bay Stakes is contested at 1 1/16 miles and the Dubai Turf March 31 at Meydan is an 1,800-meter race (about 1 1/8 miles).
"You're asking a lot of things (of him to go to Dubai)—we're going a long ways, we're going to run a mile-and-an-eighth, and ask him to beat the best horses in the world. We'll take on the best horses in the world going a mile, but just not a mile-and-an-eighth."
Casse said the Live Oak Plantation homebred came out of his seasonal bow in the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Stakes Feb. 10 in good order. Under John Velazquez at Tampa Bay Downs, World Approval stalked the pace from third before launching his move and holding off Forge in the stretch to win by a half-length.
"I had a long talk with Johnny (Velazquez) and a long talk with (Live Oak's) Mrs. Weber. Johnny feels the same way, at a mile he's tough but when you go past that he's not as tough. And he needs to be at his best. And Mrs. Weber, it was an easy decision for her when I discussed it with her. You've got to protect him. He's been so good to us, I don't want to put him in a position where he doesn't have a shot to be at his very best.
"I'm not going to say that I'm not going to run him at a mile-and a-sixteenth or a mile-and-an-eighth, but I'm not going to run him against the best in the world (at those distances)."
The Canadian Hall of Fame trainer said the main upcoming target for the 6-year-old Northern Afleet gelding is the Maker's 46 Mile Stakes (G1T) at Keeneland April 13. The team also will look at the Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes (G1T) March 10 at Santa Anita Park.
"I'd say there's a 50-50 shot we could go to the Kilroe Mile," Casse said. "But our main goal this year is the Maker's Mark. Obviously our longterm goal is the Breeders' Cup, but we'll look at the Maker's Mark, and if we feel like he's ready and it's not too soon back, we'll take a run at the Kilroe out in California."