05/20/2017 5:35PM

World Approval delivers as favorite in Dixie Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
World Approval, ridden by Julien Leparoux, wins the Dixie Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths.

BALTIMORE – The winter malaise that plagued World Approval earlier this year is officially behind him. The 5-year-old gelding confirmed that he’s back to top form with a solid 2 1/4-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Dixie Stakes at Pimlico.

The win was the second straight this year for World Approval and his eighth from 20 career starts. The $150,000 first-place purse pushed his career earnings to $1,103,763.

“He’s really good right now, this horse,” trainer Mark Casse said. “His last couple of works were crazy. It’s funny, this winter he struggled along, but then he really came around.”

World Approval, who won the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth Park last year, made a successful seasonal debut at Tampa Bay Downs in April, winning the Turf Classic by 2 1/4 lengths. His connections loved the way he trained subsequently and were looking forward to running him in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day. But the turf course came up soft that afternoon, and World Approval was scratched to await the Dixie.

Though thunderstorms hit the area Friday, the turf course was labeled “good,” and Casse was happy with its condition.

The Dixie developed liked it looked on paper. Security Risk, breaking from the rail under Florent Geroux, set the pace, with World Approval stalking through fractions of 24.12 seconds for the quarter, 49.43 for the half-mile, and 1:13.94 for six furlongs.

World Approval drew alongside Security Risk turning for home, took the lead just before the eighth pole, and kicked clear for the victory. Projected, who was getting an inside stalking trip under Joel Rosario, had to settle for second, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Blacktype. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to Catapult in fourth.

Talk Show Man finished fifth and was followed by One Mean Man, Security Risk, Conquest Typhoon, Top of Mind, and Ring Weekend.

World Approval, a gelding by Northern Afleet owned by Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.15 and returned $7 as the favorite.

“I was very comfortable, very relaxed laying second,” winning jockey Julien Leparoux said. “He’s a nice horse. We went slow to the half, he was doing it very easy, and he kicked very nice at the end.”

Leparoux believes World Approval “is the same or better [than last year]. Hopefully, we have a good year with him.”

Casse said World Approval will be pointed to the Grade 1, $1 million Manhattan at Belmont Park on June 10. He finished third in that race last year.