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BALTIMORE, MD – Live Oak Plantation’s homebred World Approval flashed his Grade 1-winning form on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course, sitting just off the lead until taking over at the head of the stretch and sprinting clear to a 2 1/4-length triumph in the Grade 2, $250,000 Longines Dixie.
Inaugurated in 1870, the 116th running of the Dixie for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles on the turf was the last of seven undercard stakes, four graded, on a 14-race program that supported the 142nd renewal of the Preakness Stakes.
Ridden by Julien Leparoux for trainer Mark Casse, the 5-year-old World Approval completed the distance in 1:43.15 over a turf course rated good.
It was just the second race since mid-October for World Approval, who was scratched from a planned start in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard when the Churchill Downs course came up soft.
“He’s a nice horse,” Leparoux said. “We got a perfect trip today – the ideal trip, anyway – and he kicked on at the end. The track was ideal for him. He didn’t mind it, so we are very happy about the win.”
Breaking from Post 2 as the 5-2 favorite in a field of 10 older horses, World Approval settled off the right hip of Security Risk through an opening 1/4-mile in :24.12 and a 1/2 in :49.43. They were still 1-2 after 6 furlongs in 1:13.94 before Leparoux gave World Approval his cue, powering down the stretch for his fourth career graded win and first since the Grade 1 United Nations last July.
“There was not too much speed in the race, so the plan was to be right up there and relax and kick on at the end,” Leparoux said. “By the 3/8 pole, he started grabbing the bit and finished up strong.”
Projected, one of two horses trained by defending Dixie winner Chad Brown, tracked World Approval throughout but couldn’t keep up with the winner late and wound up second, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Blacktype. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to Projected’s stablemate Catapult in fourth. Talk Show Man, One Mean Man, Security Risk, Conquest Typhoon, Top of Mind, and Ring Weekend completed the order of finish.
The Dixie marked the first time since World Approval’s 3-year-old season that the Northern Afleet gelding won back-to-back races, having taken the Turf Classic for Florida-breds on April 2 at Tampa Bay Downs.
World Approval earned $150,000 for his eighth victory from 20 career starts, pushing his bankroll over the $1 million mark to $1,103,763.
World Approval returned $7, $4.40, and $2.80. Projected brought back $4.80 and $3.60, while Blacktype paid $3.20 to show.
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Trainer Mark Casse, World Approval: “I just said (to Julien Leparoux), ‘We want to be close.’ That’s all. This horse got into trouble a couple of times getting too far back. And he’s gotten to where he’s got a little gas now.
“We had him in at Churchill Downs (G1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic). But I was really, really worried. That turf was really soft. I said, to (owner) Mrs. (Charlotte) Weber, ‘Hey, let’s wait two weeks and run at Pimlico.’ And she was good with it.
“I’d been watching it (the turf), and it was nowhere near as soft like Churchill was.
“The mare is unbelievable.”
Jockey Julien Leparoux, World Approval: “That’s what (the trip) looked like on paper. He was very comfortable, very relaxed laying second, and he kicked on at the end. He’s a nice horse, and we went slow for the 1/2, and he was doing it very easy and kicked on nice. The one turn over there is a little bit slippery, other than that, it feels pretty good. Around the 3/8, I tried to keep him together, tried to go around the turn very nicely, and he kicked on in the straight. He was really good last year. Maybe one or two races weren’t that good, but he won a Grade 1 last year. This year, I think he’s the same or better, and we’ll have a good year with him.”
“He was relaxed, and I knew he was going to finish. After that, it was a question if someone could out-kick him. But going that slow and the kick he has at the end, it’s tough for the ones from behind to catch him.”
Trainer Chad Brown, Projected & Catapult: “Projected got a really good trip. I’m disappointed that Catapult never got early position. It was a slow pace and the race didn’t unfold the way I wanted. Projected ran very well. He just couldn’t kick with World Approval, who is a really nice horse.
Jockey Joel Rosario, Projected: “I had a very good inside trip. My horse tried really hard. I think he was just second best today. World Approval you know what he’s done before. He’s a very good horse.”
Jockey Jose Ortiz, Blacktype: “We got a perfect trip and saved all the ground. I just followed Projected and he closed really good. He just couldn’t get there today.”
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