Live Oak Plantation's World Approval, winner of last year's United Nations Handicap (G1) at Monmouth Park, can bust through millionaire status in the G2 Longines Dixie Stakes at Pimlico on the Preakness Stakes undercard. The nearly white 5-year-old gelding was scratched from Churchill Downs' Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) because of soft turf conditions after two days of rain.
World Approval is part of trainer Mark Casse's strong arsenal bound for Pimlico, headed by major Preakness Stakes (G1) contender Classic Empire. World Approval worked five-eighths of a mile Friday at Churchill in 1:01, the fastest of 10 works at the distance, with jockey Julien Leparoux aboard.
“We think he'll really like it over there; he's doing really well,” said Norman Casse, who oversees the Kentucky operation for his father. “He worked awesome. We just didn't know how soft it was going to get (at Churchill). His one real bad race was on soft ground, and we knew how well he was doing. And we had other horses in the race. It just made more sense to wait for Preakness Day to run him.”
World Approval has raced once this year, winning the Turf Classic at Tampa Bay Downs April 2 after a 5 1/2-month layoff. He's 7-2-3 in 17 turf starts, earning $944,014 on grass, with a third in two dirt starts in his only races as a 2-year-old.
“He certainly hasn't lost a step,” Casse said. “He's been working well leading up to his first start of the year, ran awesome, and has worked really well since. He seems to be getting even better, so we'll see.”
Live Oak also will have Victory to Victory in the $100,000 Hilltop for 3-year-old fillies at a mile on turf May 19. The barn sees her as an emerging star, joining her more established stablemates in the same division in La Colonel and Dream Dancing, the 1-2 finishers of Churchill Downs' Edgewood Stakes (G3).
Victory to Victory was the good-looking winner of a Keeneland allowance race on April 23. That was her first start since earning her first victory in Woodbine's Natalma Stakes (G1), after which she had to be scratched from the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) with a hoof abscess.
“We were really impressed with her allowance race at Keeneland,” Casse said. “We knew she'd run well, and she certainly didn't disappoint. And she's trained great since then. We're really excited to get her back in stakes company and think she's really primed to have a big year.
“Early winter, when she started training again, you could tell she was almost like a different horse — in a good way,” he added “She was a good horse as a 2-year-old, obviously, but she really seems to be touting herself now. We have a really good problem right now because we have three really talented turf fillies. We're going to have a lot of fun with those horses all year long.”
Other Casse horses running next Friday or Saturday at Pimlico include Summer Luck, who failed to draw into the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) last week, in the Black Eyed Susan; and Pretty City Dancer, last summer's Spinaway (G1) winner at Saratoga, in the Miss Preakness; (G3) at six furlongs. Noble Bird is a possibility for the historic $300,000 Xpressbet Pimlico Special (G3), a race he won last year.
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