World Approval Aims to Get Back on Course in Wise Dan


Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
World Approval out for morning exercise at Pimlico Racecourse

For all the attitude World Approval can throw at those who dare invade his personal space, the venerable gelding is about as straightforward as they come in terms of doing his job.

The pinned-back ears and sneaky bites may be part of his tough-guy persona in the stall, but when it comes to doing what is asked of him in the mornings, the gray/roan son of Northern Afleet is a dutiful soldier, going through his workouts with utmost professionalism. Because he is so on point with his training, those who know World Approval best can spot the slightest of hints that he is not quite himself.

And after returning home from a venture in Santa Anita Park's Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes (G1T) March 10, his first loss since last summer, trainer Mark Casse saw a version of the reigning champion turf male that didn't match up to his usual standard.

"I think, for one, we didn't have him fully cranked for his first race back, and you know he always gives his best, and I think maybe his effort in California was just a little hard on him," Casse said. "We gave him some time and … he's ready now."

With his spark reportedly showing back up in the a.m. hours, Live Oak Plantation's homebred World Approval aims to get back to the business of showcasing his top competitive form June 16 when he heads a field of eight entered for the $200,000 Wise Dan Stakes (G2T) at Churchill Downs going 1 1/16 miles.

Prior to his fifth-place finish in the Kilroe Mile, World Approval had notched four consecutive victories, with three of those coming in grade 1 company, including his championship-clinching triumph in the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup Mile (G1T). Though World Approval captured the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Stakes (G3T) in his season debut Feb. 10 by a half-length, plans to send him overseas for a start in the Dubai Turf Sponsored By DP World (G1) were scrapped due to concerns over facing the world's best over a distance at 1 1/8 miles that is not his wheelhouse.

When World Approval seemed a little on the dull side following his West Coast trip, Casse opted to wait until he saw the old World Approval show up before making any more concrete race plans. Two days after the May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), the gelding obliged by working five furlongs in 1:00 2/5 at Churchill Downs and was set to start in the Dixie Stakes (G2T) at Pimlico Race Course May 19 but was scratched when that race came off the turf due to rain.

"I think his effort in California—there were a few things going on. (Jockey) Flavien (Prat) didn't know him well and he broke a little slow and … it was just a lot of things," Casse said. "If I didn't say it didn't make (me) nervous I'd be lying, because we never really got a true confirmation (of what was going on) before his dull effort. We can only speculate. So of course I'll be a little nervous about it (until he runs), but I was nervous when he was winning four in a row. That's just a trainer's life right there."

Though he is based at Churchill for a chunk of the year, World Approval will be seeking his first win over his home course, after finishing third in the 2015 American Turf Stakes (G2T) and second in the 2016 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes (G1T) in two tries beneath the Twin Spires. The 6-year-old gelding will be reunited with regular rider John Velazquez on Saturday and was installed as the 6-5 morning-line favorite in the Wise Dan.

One Wise Dan entrant who has repeatedly thrived at Churchill Downs is Gunpowder Farms' multiple grade 1 winner Divisidero. The 6-year-old son of Kitten's Joy  is unbeaten in three starts over the Louisville course, including back-to-back editions of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic in 2016-17.

What has been a sticking point for the bay runner is getting his form to hold up in the summer and fall—four of his five career wins have come in May. After an extended freshening following a fourth-place run in October's Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes (G1T) and being transferred from trainer Buff Bradley to the barn of Kelly Rubley, Divisidero gave a good account of himself when he ran second to Money Multiplier during his seasonal bow in the May 26 Monmonth Stakes (G2T) going 1 1/8 miles.

Saturday's card will also feature the Regret Stakes (G3T) for 3-year-old fillies on the turf, with another grade 1-winning Casse trainee trying to use the lawn to get herself back on course.

Heavenly Love, winner of the Darley Alcibiades Stakes (G1) in October, has been off the board in her last four starts and was most recently sixth to Rushing Fall in the Appalachian Stakes Presented by Japan Racing Association (G2T) April 8.

"I think it will be good keeping her on the turf," Casse assistant trainer Dave Carroll said of Heavenly Love, the 5-1 morning line favorite over 12 rivals in the 1 1/8-mile Regret. "She's trained great here at Keeneland into this start after a little bit of rest following the Appalachian. We decided to skip the (May 4) Edgewood to give her a bit more time between races. It's not the best drawing the rail, but there is a long run into the first turn to get into position."

Entries: Wise Dan S. (G2T)

Churchill Downs, Saturday, June 16, 2018, Race 6

  • Grade IIT
  • 1 1/16m
  • Turf
  • $200,000
  • 3 yo's & up
  • 8:30 PM (local)
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 1Divisidero (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Jevian Toledo 121 Kelly Rubley 3/1
2 2Shining Copper (KY) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 123 Michael J. Maker 6/1
3 3Inspector Lynley (KY) Jose L. Ortiz 121 Claude R. McGaughey III 10/1
4 4World Approval (FL) John R. Velazquez 126 Mark E. Casse 6/5
5 5Mr. Misunderstood (KY) Florent Geroux 121 Brad H. Cox 10/1
6 6Mr Cub (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Chris Landeros 121 Ian R. Wilkes 10/1
7 7Flatlined (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Corey J. Lanerie 121 Charles L. Dickey 12/1
8 8Parlor (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr. 121 Eddie Kenneally 10/1

Entries: Regret S. (G3T)

Churchill Downs, Saturday, June 16, 2018, Race 9

  • Grade IIIT
  • 1 1/8m
  • Turf
  • $100,000
  • 3 yo Fillies
  • 10:11 PM (local)
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 1Heavenly Love (KY) Julien R. Leparoux 118 Mark E. Casse 5/1
2 2Consolida (GB) John R. Velazquez 118 Patrick Gallagher 10/1
3 3She's Pretty Lucky (TX) Corey J. Lanerie 118 Eddie Kenneally 10/1
4 4Finess Bere (FR) Ricardo Santana, Jr. 118 Bob Baffert 8/1
5 5Lemon Princess (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Alex L. Canchari 118 Joan Scott 50/1
6 6Cash Out (KY) Adam Beschizza 118 George R. Arnold, II 12/1
7 7Go Google Yourself (KY) Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr. 118 Paul J. McGee 10/1
8 8Beyond Blame (KY) Florent Geroux 118 Brad H. Cox 6/1
9 9Secret Message (KY) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 118 H. Graham Motion 12/1
10 10Kabella (KY) Shaun Bridgmohan 118 Daniel C. Peitz 6/1
11 11Romantic Moment (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Jose L. Ortiz 118 Claude R. McGaughey III 8/1
12 12Go Noni Go (KY)Keeneland Sales Graduate Mike E. Smith 118 Michael J. Maker 6/1
13 13Stave (KY) Gabriel Saez 118 J. Larry Jones 8/1