Champion turf horse World Approval, who was expected to aim for the $6 million Dubai Turf (G1), will instead skip a Middle Eastern venture in favor of a spring campaign closer to home. Trainer Mark Casse broke the news Monday on Steve Byk’s Sirius XM radio program, “At the Races.”
Honored with an Eclipse Award after his Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) heroics, the Live Oak Plantation homebred returned with a victory in this past Saturday’s Tampa Bay (G3). The gray had to dig in to see off Forge, while conceding seven pounds, in the 1 1/16-mile contest, and Casse now has no incentive to step him up to about 1 1/8 miles in the Dubai Turf.
“He will not go to Dubai,” Casse told Byk after conferring with owner/breeder Charlotte Weber.
“We don’t believe that he can go that far. I mean, he can go that far with the right company, but to go world class, to go on with nine furlongs, I think it’s just a little beyond his reach with the world’s best.”
World Approval has had success over further in the past, most notably in the 2016 United Nations (G1), but he reached another level once sticking to a mile. The Florida-bred was emphatic in last summer’s Fourstardave (G1) and Woodbine Mile (G1) on the way to the Breeders’ Cup, and all roads lead to a Mile title defense at Churchill Downs this November.
Casse mentioned a couple of upcoming options, with the clear target being the Maker’s 46 Mile (G1) at Keeneland on April 13.
“There is a possibility, maybe the Kilroe Mile (G1) (March 10 at Santa Anita), but our main focus right now will be the Maker’s Mark at Keeneland.
“He’s been good to us, he’s a champion. I feel like, and Mrs. Weber feels the same way, that it’s our job to protect him. I wouldn’t want to send him into a place where, one, it’s a long ways from home, it’s beyond maybe his distance.
“And I had a nice talk with Johnny (Hall of Fame rider Velazquez) this morning about it as well, and he feels the same way. I take what Johnny has to say very seriously.”
Right after the Tampa Bay, Velazquez had mentioned the added distance as a factor.
“I think when we passed a mile it was getting a little long for him with the layoff and (the extra sixteenth) hit him right in the head a little bit,” the rider said in the postrace quotes from track publicity.
In other Dubai Turf news, Japanese mare Vivlos is pointing for a title defense on the March 31 World Cup card. A full sister to Verxina and a half-sister to reigning Japan Cup (G1) hero Cheval Grand, Vivlos has raced only twice since she was up in time to beat males in the Dubai Turf. She was a closing second by a neck in the October 14 Fuchu Himba (G2), but fifth when stretching out to about 1 3/8 miles in Kyoto’s Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1) last time out November 14.
And in other blurbs regarding the projected American squad, champion West Coast remains possible for the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1). The Bob Baffert trainee returned to the worktab Sunday for the first time since his excellent second to Horse of the Year Gun Runner in the Pegasus World Cup (G1), touring three-eighths in :36.60 at Santa Anita.
“Something big,” Baffert said in Santa Anita’s notes of what’s next for West Coast, all but saying the World Cup by name.
Reigning Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) winner Mind Your Biscuits, edged by Conquest Windycity as the 2-5 favorite in a seven-furlong Gulfstream allowance last Friday, is still on course for Meydan.
“It was a very good starting point,” trainer Chad Summers said in Monday’s notes from the Dubai Racing Club. “They ran the first 1200 meters in 1:08.85 and he got a bit tired, needing the run (off a two-month break since his second in the Cigar Mile [G1]).
“He came out of it in good order and we are very much looking forward to defending our title in a very salty renewal of the Golden Shaheen this year.
“He may have one final prep in the Gulfstream Park Sprint (G3) (March 3) or he will just train up to the race.”
Mind Your Biscuits prepped in the Gulfstream Park Sprint last year, missing by a head to Unified. His timetable was a little different since he was coming off a victory in the Malibu (G1) at the end of December 2016.