Racing News


by Mike Henry


World Approval winning Florida Cup EG Vodka
Turf Classic (courtesy SV Photography)

Two-time Florida Cup winner World Approval heads the list of horses with Tampa Bay Downs connections for the Breeders’ Cup, which will be contested Friday and Saturday at Del Mar in southern California.

Tampa Bay Downs will simulcast both days of the 34th annual event while offering advance wagering Friday on Saturday’s card, which culminates with Saturday’s $6-million Breeders’ Cup Classic. Riders Up! bar, Legends, the Silks Bar and Grille, the Metro Deli and the Sports Gallery will be open throughout the event.

World Approval is part of a 14-horse field for the $2-million Breeders’ Cup Mile, to be run Saturday on the turf. He is the 9-2 second-choice on the morning line. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez is slated to ride World Approval.

“He is doing extremely well. I feel like he is on the top of his game,” said Mark Casse, who trains the 5-year-old gelding for his breeder and owner, Charlotte Weber, who campaigns the Florida-bred under her Live Oak Plantation banner.

In his only Tampa Bay Downs starts, World Approval won the 2015 Florida Cup Sophomore Turf as a 3-year-old and captured the Florida Cup EG Vodka Turf Classic here in April in his 2017 debut. His last two races have resulted in Grade I victories in the Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga and the Ricoh Woodbine Mile at Woodbine in Toronto.

The Mile is the ninth race on Saturday’s card, with an expected post time of 6:19 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

World Approval is one of four Breeders’ Cup entrants to have raced at Tampa Bay Downs, along with Imperial Hint, Cambodia and Elate.

The 4-year-old Florida-bred colt Imperial Hint, who won the 2016 Florida Cup Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore at Tampa Bay Downs in the second-fastest time in race history, is one of the morning-line favorites in the $1.5-million TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint, which is the eighth race Saturday and should go off at 5:37 p.m. EDT.

Owned by Raymond Mamone and trained by Luis Carvajal, Jr., Imperial Hint will be ridden by another Hall of Fame jockey, Javier Castellano. The 6-furlong Sprint has drawn a 10-horse field, headed by the defending champion, Drefong.

Imperial Hint, who broke his maiden at Tampa Bay Downs seven weeks before the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore, has posted five consecutive victories.

Another Breeders’ Cup contender with Tampa Bay Downs form is the 5-year-old mare Cambodia, one of 14 runners for Saturday’s $2-million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. Now trained by Tampa Bay Downs conditioner Tom Proctor, the Winter Quarter Farm-owned Cambodia broke her maiden in her only Tampa Bay Downs start in December of 2015 for trainer Ben Colebrook.

Drayden Van Dyke has been named to ride Cambodia. Proctor is looking for his second Breeders’ Cup victory, having won the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs with One Dreamer.

The Filly and Mare Turf is Saturday’s seventh race, with a scheduled post time of 5 p.m. EDT.

The 3-year-old filly Elate is the only Breeders’ Cup Oldsmar graduate not to have won locally, but she appears to be entering Friday’s $2-million, 1 1/8-mile Longines Distaff in exceptional form. A runner-up to Tapa Tapa Tapa in the Suncoast Stakes here in February, Elate has won the Grade I Alabama and the Grade I Beldame (in her first try against older horses) by a combined 13 ¾ lengths.

Jose Ortiz has been named to ride Elate for owners Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider and Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. Elate is the 3-1 second choice in the eight-horse field.

The Longines Distaff is Friday’s ninth race, with a probable post time of 7:35 p.m. EDT.

In addition to the equine connections, the eyes of Tampa Bay Downs fans Saturday will be glued to the $1-million, 5-furlong Turf Sprint, which is the fifth race.

Popular Oldsmar jockey Fernando De La Cruz, who captured the first graded-stakes victory of his career last month in the Grade II Woodford Stakes Presented by Keeneland Select aboard 5-year-old horse Bucchero, joins the Indiana-bred for the 12-runner event, which is set to commence at 3:37 p.m. EDT.

De La Cruz is 4-for-5 aboard Bucchero with one second, all in stakes competition. Tim Glyshaw trains Bucchero for owner Ironhorse Racing Stable LLC.

Also close to home, Tampa resident Carolyn Wilson has entered her unbeaten (3-for-3) 2-year-old colt The Tabulator in the $2-million Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, which is Saturday’s 10th race at 6:58 p.m. EDT. The Grade III winner is trained by Larry Rivelli and will be ridden by Jose Valdivia, Jr.

Casse is seeking his fourth Breeders’ Cup victory with World Approval, having won last year’s Sentient Jet Juvenile with Classic Empire, the 2015 Mile with Tepin and the 2015 Juvenile Fillies Turf with Catch a Glimpse.

World Approval is one of seven Breeders’ Cup entrants trained by Casse, including Live Oak Plantation’s Awesome Slew in Friday’s $1-million Dirt Mile. “I think World Approval is probably our best chance. He has definitely stepped up his game this year,” Casse said.

World Approval, a son of Northern Afleet-Win Approval, by With Approval, comes from a star-studded Live Oak family. His half-brother Miesque’s Approval won the NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile in 2006 at Churchill Downs, and a victory by World Approval would make his 25-year-old dam only the second broodmare to produce multiple winners of the same Breeders’ Cup race.

“I trained (Win Approval’s son) Za Approval (the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Mile runner-up) later in his career, and I think her offspring tend to have a bit of a mean streak in them,” Casse said. “That carries over into their performance, because they don’t like losing.”

Casse, who won both the Grade III Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes and the Grade II Hillsborough at Tampa Bay Downs in 2016 with two-time Eclipse Award Champion Grass Female Tepin, believes World Approval’s Oldsmar experiences have served him well throughout his emergence into a world-class turf runner.

“Tampa Bay Downs has a great turf course, and the horses I’ve run there have come out of their races in great shape, which is the key to everything,” Casse said. “Not only did the (EG Vodka Turf Classic) raise his confidence, it set him up for the road ahead.

“I don’t care if a horse is a Grade I winner or a $20,000 claiming horse, you want them to come back from a race safe and happy, and the turf course there, in my opinion, is one of the nicest in North America.”

Tampa Bay Downs is preparing to resume its 2017-2018 Thoroughbred racing season on Saturday, Nov. 25. The main track opens for training Monday.

Tampa Bay Downs is open every day except Thanksgiving (Nov. 23) and Christmas (Dec. 25) for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.