It’s hard to argue that any turf runner in 2017 was better than World Approval. The gelding, who is now a six-year-old, went 4-0-0 in five starts which included wins in the Manhattan Handicap and the Woodbine Mile. His crowning achievement was the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Mile, and now he prepares to make his season debut this weekend in the 2018 Tampa Bay Stakes.
The Mark Casse trainee is using this race as a tune-up for whatever lies ahead this season. World Approval opens as a heavy 2/5 favorite. Honestly, it’s a bit unfair for him to even be in this race. However, as horseplayers will tell you, anything can happen on the turf surface.
World Approval will be coming to the 2018 Tampa Bay fully prepared despite a long layoff and the somewhat tumultuous results that tend to happen in these types of races. “He got a couple of weeks of just doing nothing then they began bringing him back slowly on the farm,” Casse explained. “Then we brought him to Palm Meadows and he’s been training nice and steady since he’s been here. He’s a professional; he understands what we want from him and he’s been coming up to the race nicely.”
Casse further reflected on a phenomenal 2017 season. “I think he sort of came into his own last year,” he continued, “He’s always had talent, we could see that early on; but there were times when he seemed to struggle. The last part of 2016 he seemed to just not be all together.
“Then from the time we brought him out at Tampa in the spring last year he just seemed as though he was very confident and self assured. He had his act completely together, he knew it, and he liked it. You could see it in the way he trained, how he carried himself, how he acted on race day, he just became a complete horse.”
A pair of 8/1 second choices are getting a bit of a nudge from the oddsmakers here. Forge is the first, but hasn’t won a significant contest in his career. The five-year-old was last out running seventh in the 2017 Knickerbocker and second in the Bernard Baruch Handicap.
Also getting some love is Fire Away, a Clade R. McGaughey III trainee who is going to get far more consideration than any other rival in the 2018 Tampa Bay Stakes. The six-year-old recently won the Artie Schiller and his finished in the money during his last four races. Potential for a late blooming success? It’s possible. Against World Approval? Unlikely.
The remainder of the field is listed as longshots of 15/1 or greater, and those odds are even higher given that World Approval is a 2/5 favorite. It’s hard to suggest how the competition will react to going up against such a storied champion. A place bet on Fire Away seems logical, with Western Reserve also showing well at 12/1 on the board.
This is World Approval’s race to lose. The odds reflect that. The thing is, he won’t lose. He’s just too damn good.
2018 Tampa Bay Stakes – Saturday, February 10th at Tampa Bay Downs
1 1/16th Miles – 3+ Year Olds – $175,000
|1||Doctor Mounty (KY)||Antonio A. Gallardo||117||Claude R. McGaughey III||20/1|
|2||Noble Thought (KY)||Jesus Lopez Castanon||117||Malcolm Pierce||15/1|
|3||Fire Away (KY)||Jose L. Ortiz||117||Claude R. McGaughey III||8/1|
|4||Cheyenne’s Colonel (KY)||Manoel R. Cruz||117||Derrick A. Parram||50/1|
|5||Western Reserve (KY)||Daniel Centeno||117||J. Kent Sweezey||12/1|
|6||Forge (GB)||Manuel Franco||117||William I. Mott||8/1|
|7||World Approval (FL)||John R. Velazquez||124||Mark E. Casse||2/5|
|8||Le Ken (ARG)||Jose Lezcano||117||Ignacio Correas, IV||20/1|
|9||Tasit (PA)||Joel Rosario||117||Michael R. Matz||20/1|
|10||Brass Compass (KY)||Ronald Dale Allen, Jr.||117||Reade Baker||30/1|