Live Oak Plantation’s homebred World Approval, who emulated half-brother Miesque’s Approval when taking the November 4 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), has now followed him onto the Eclipse Award podium as champion turf male.
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Miesque’s Approval (by Miesque’s Son) reached his career peak at the age of seven in 2006. It was a similar story with the other two millionaire offspring from their prolific dam, Win Approval – Revved Up (by Sultry Song) scored his graded wins at seven and eight, and Za Approval (by Ghostzapper) didn’t try graded company until he was a five-year-old, in his banner 2013 that culminated in a second to Wise Dan in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
World Approval (by Northern Afleet), comparatively speaking, was on the fast track to the top for trainer Mark Casse. The bright gray earned his Grade 1 breakthrough at four in the 2016 United Nations (G1), building upon a fine resume that already featured high-profile victories in the 2015 Saranac (G3) and American Derby (G3) and placings in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) and Manhattan (G1). Those credits indicated effectiveness in turf routes up to 1 3/8 miles, the distance of the United Nations.
Hence World Approval didn’t find his niche as a turf miler until 2017, and the second half of the season at that. After dashing wins in the April 2 Florida Cup Turf Classic over nine furlongs at Tampa Bay Downs, and in the 1 1/16-mile Dixie (G2) on Preakness Day at Pimlico, he returned to Belmont for the 1 1/4-mile Manhattan. But this time, he was unable to replicate his third-place finish from 2016, and instead checked in a slightly disappointing fifth on Belmont Day.
If World Approval was hitherto perhaps a victim of his own consistency, his Manhattan loss freed him to plot a new course. Casse shortened him up and promptly found a world-class heir to his recently retired champion, Tepin, the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Mile star and 2016 runner-up.
World Approval was unbeatable in his ensuing starts. He dispatched his foes from just off the pace in the August 12 Fourstardave (G1) on yielding ground at Saratoga, and argued early in the September 16 Woodbine Mile (G1) before turning it into a one-horse show. The Breeders’ Cup Mile at Del Mar, however, was the acid test – of his ability as a pure miler, and at the top level of international competition. Sent off as the 5-2 favorite, World Approval gave a convincing answer in stalk-and-pounce fashion.
By enhancing his own championship credentials, World Approval threw down the gauntlet to his chief domestic rival for the Eclipse Award, Beach Patrol. Had that Arlington Million (G1) and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (G1) winner completed a triple in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), he may well have gotten the nod in a hotly debated vote. But Beach Patrol came up just short of flashy Frenchman Talismanic, and World Approval now stood atop the turf male division with a five-for-six mark in 2017 and seasonal earnings of $2,043,600. That record was also worthy of making World Approval a finalist for Horse of the Year.
In the process, the Florida-bred put Win Approval in rarefied company for producing two U.S. champions. Since formal voting on championships began in 1936, that club includes such exalted matrons as Easy Lass, dam of Hall of Famer Coaltown and 1949 co-champion three-year-old filly Wistful; Gaga, dam of Hall of Famer Tom Fool and 1950 champion two-year-old filly Aunt Jinny; Hildene, dam of Hall of Famer Hill Prince and 1958 champion two-year-old colt First Landing; Misty Morn, dam of champion two-year-old colts Bold Lad (1964) and Successor (1966); Aspidistra, dam of Hall of Famers Dr. Fager and Ta Wee; *Rough Shod II, dam of champion juvenile filly Moccasin, who took home a split Horse of the Year title in 1965, and Ridan, co-champion two-year-old colt of 1961; Banquet Bell, dam of Primonetta, champion handicap mare of 1962, and Chateaugay, 1963 champion three-year-old colt; Key Bridge, dam of Hall of Famer Fort Marcy and 1972 champion three-year-old colt Key to the Mint; Ballade, dam of Glorious Song, champion handicap mare of 1980, and Devil’s Bag, 1983 champion two-year-old colt; Klepto, dam of 1986 champion turf mare Estrapade and 1990 Horse of the Year Criminal Type; and Hasili, dam of champion turf females Banks Hill (2001) and Intercontinental (2005).
A few others are responsible for U.S. champions on both the Flat and over jumps, most recently Daltawa, dam of 1999 champion turf male Daylami as well as 2015 champion steeplechaser Dawalan (and while we’re at it, 2003 European Horse of the Year Dalakhani).
As a six-year-old gelding from a family of renowned longevity, World Approval promises to add to his career tally of 24-11-2-4, $2,937,363. Plans call for him to take his game on the road for the March 31 Dubai Turf (G1) on World Cup night, with a prep run in the February 10 Tampa Bay (G3).