World Approval, Live Oak Plantation's 2017 male turf champion and Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) winner, is termed “more than likely” to run in the $250,000 Dixie Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles on turf on the Preakness Stakes undercard, trainer Mark Casse said in a text Tuesday.
The now 6-year-old gelded son of Northern Afleet won last year's Dixie en route to capturing the Eclipse Award as North America's outstanding male grass horse.
World Approval worked five-eighths of a mile in 1:00 2/5 seconds Monday at Churchill Downs in company with 4-year-old gelding Casses Story. It was the eighth-fastest of 23 works at the distance that day.
“He worked very well; we were really happy with the way he did it,” Nick Tomlinson, the assistant trainer who oversees Casse's Churchill division, said. “It was one of his better works, for sure. As long as he comes out of it well, we'll probably work him back again Sunday and then we'll start thinking about getting to Maryland for the Dixie.”
World Approval won five of six starts last year, taking his last three starts in the Fourstardave (G1) at Saratoga, Woodbine Mile (G1) in Canada and Breeders' Cup Mile on turf at Del Mar. He started his 2018 season Feb. 10 by winning the Tampa Bay Stakes (G3) but was fifth by four lengths as the 1-2 favorite in Santa Anita's Frank Kilroe Mile (G1) March 10, his most recent effort.
“We don't know exactly what, [but] he just wasn't himself for a little bit,” Tomlinson said. “Now he seems to be getting back to the World Approval we know. They're horses; they're just like people. Sometimes we all have our good days and bad days. He was just having a moment, and now he seems to be getting back to himself, which we're very excited about. We all love him to death and want the best for him.”
The popular gray has won 12 of 26 starts, with two seconds and four thirds while earning $3,060,363 for his career.
“It all kind of started for him last year in the Dixie,” Tomlinson said. “Hopefully he can come back and repeat and hope for a very exciting summer and fall for him.”
This year marks the 117th running of the Dixie, Pimlico's oldest stakes race first won by the horse Preakness in 1870. Previous champions to win the Dixie include Whirlaway (1942), Armed (1946), St. Vincent (1955), Fort Marcy (1970), Sky Classic (1992) and Paradise Creek (1994).
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