Has champion World Approval lost a step? 'So far, I don't know'

June 17, 2018 03:48pm
Breeders’ Cup Mile winner World Approval finished a disappointing sixth in the Wise Dan Stakes (G2) Saturday night at Churchill Downs. Before this race, he also turned in subpar effort at Santa Anita when he ran fifth in the Frank E. Kilroe (G1).

At this point, it seems clear he's not running at the same level that earned him Eclipse Award honors for 2017's top older male on turf. This is not the same horse who reeled off three consecutive Grade I wins in the Fourstardave Handicap, Woodbine Mile and Breeders’ Cup Mile in 2017. 

Just look at the horses who crossed the wire before World Approval on Saturday. Those names include Mr. Misunderstood, Inspector Lynley, Mr Cub, Divisidero and Parlor.

While Divisidero is a multiple Grade I winner, no one will mistake him for a monster. Mr. Misunderstood could only manage a sixth in the Makers Mile (G1) at Keeneland two months ago. Inspector Lynley recently lost an optional claimer (to an arising star in Made You Look). World Approval finished more than two lengths away from those runners. 

Remaining believers will point to the poor break in the Wise Dan, where it appeared World Approval got squeezed at the start. Well, those kinds of breaks happen.

Shortly afterward, the 6-year-old gelding found himself tracking the leader in second, so he never lost his preferred position after the awkward beginning.

From that point, World Approval looked comfortable enough. Unless the turf course was playing slow, the pace cannot be blamed as Mr Cub set fractions of 24.70 and 48.75 for a one-mile race. The old World Approval would handle a fast tempo.

Would the former version handle any surface? After the race, trainer Mark Casse mentioned how World Approval could not gain any traction.

“Johnny (Velazquez) knows him better than anybody,” Casse said of World Approval’s jockey. “He said he struggled. He said he’s never struggled on the turf course like he struggled tonight.”

But Casse also admitted World Approval ran well on all kinds of turf courses before this year. One of those wins even came on yielding turf.  

You could reason that he only lost by three or four lengths in his last two starts. But three or four lengths represents a significant margin in turf racing.

Turf races finish in clustered groups more often than not. Subsequently, each length means more, signaling World Approval could be running behind on talent.

Does Casse believe World Approval is the same horse?

“So far, his last two performances haven’t looked like it," the trainer said. "So, I don’t know. It’s our job to figure that out.”

From a betting standpoint, World Approval should be considered a toss. Cross out his 2017 form, and this is a horse who should be 20-1 if he enters races like the Fourstardave and Woodbine Mile again, let alone the Breeders’ Cup.

In that sense, maybe World Approval continuing his career is good for bettors searching for value. Out-of-form stars who race are good at eating money.

If the connections continue racing World Approval and attempt more graded stakes races, that is certainly their right. Sometimes horses slow down as they get older, but enjoy competing anyway. It gives them a purpose, and it's not as if the gelding has a breeding career ahead of himself.

Another major win would come as a surprise, though. It is difficult to see a turnaround in form, and most fans do not like to see a former champion step down in class. Maybe it is time to call Old Friends. He could prove this writer incorrect, but it seems World Approval's best days are behind him.


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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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