05/18/2017 11:56AM

World Approval poised to run big in Dixie Stakes

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Barbara D. Livingston
World Approval trains at Pimlico on Thursday.

BALTIMORE – The connections of World Approval are hoping the gelding’s last race was a sign that he’s ready to regain the form that made him a Grade 1 winner last year.

They’ll find out more Saturday when World Approval faces nine rivals in the Grade 2, $250,000 Dixie Stakes at Pimlico. The Dixie, scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on turf, goes as race 12 and is run immediately preceding the Preakness Stakes on the 14-race card.

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World Approval won the Grade 1 United Nations and placed in three other Grade 1 races in 2016. However, his training during the winter left something to be desired.

“His winter wasn’t great,” said Norm Casse, assistant to his father, Mark. “He was going out there breezing unremarkably.”

The Casses brought World Approval back to the races in the Turf Classic at Tampa Bay Downs on April 2, and he stalked the pacesetting Go Around and drew clear to win by 2 1/4 lengths.

“He ran an awesome race, and more importantly, he’s been breezing better since then,” Norm Casse said. “It seemed like maybe that got him back into the groove of things.”

World Approval was scratched from the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs two weeks ago due to soft turf. Though thunderstorms were in the forecast for Friday, dry conditions should prevail Saturday, and the turf likely will be firm.

Ring Weekend is another seeking to regain his Grade 1 form. He spent the latter part of last fall and all winter in Southern California, where he won the Grade 2 Seabiscuit at Del Mar and finished a close fourth in both the Grade 2 Arcadia and Grade 1 Kilroe Mile.

“He had an unlucky winter,” trainer Graham Motion said. “I thought he ran very well in both those races.”

Ring Weekend finished second, beaten a head by Takeover Target, in this race last year while coming off a 14-month layoff.

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The one thing that hampered Ring Weekend in California was breaking poorly, and it will be up to John Velazquez to get him out of the gate on Saturday.

“He does have a tendency to break slow; that has hurt him,” Motion said. “Hopefully, Johnny will help him a little bit.”

Chad Brown won this race last year with Takeover Target. On Saturday, he sends out the uncoupled entry of Projected and Catapult.

Projected is coming off an allowance win over two next-out stakes winners. Catapult was second to horse-for-course Macagone in the Danger’s Hour at Aqueduct on April 9.

Blacktype, One Mean Man, Conquest Typhoon, and Top of Mind complete the field.

KEY CONTENDERS

World Approval, by Northern Afleet

Last 3 Beyers: 92-97-96

◗ Came off a six-month layoff with a solid stakes win at Tampa and has returned with two sharp workouts.

◗ Likely to stalk the front-running Security Risk, who is drawn inside of him, and get first run on the closers.

Projected, by Showcasing

Beyers: 101-95

◗ Came off an 18-month layoff to dead heat for fourth in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf at Gulfstream in March. In his next start, he won a high-class allowance by a nose over Divisidero, who came back to win the Grade 1 Turf Classic at Churchill on Derby Day.

◗ Brown said that in the Canadian, Projected “was stymied on the inside a little bit; plus, he needed the race.”

“He hadn’t run in a long time, and I didn’t see an allowance race that really fit him,” Brown said.

Ring Weekend, by Tapit

Last 3 Beyers: 100-97-82

◗ Was beaten a neck in last year’s Dixie, run over rain-soaked turf labeled “good,” in his first start off a 15-month layoff.

◗ He is a multiple graded stakes winner at the Dixie distance of 1 1/16 miles.

◗ Reeled off four straight triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures last summer and fall.

“I would be surprised if he doesn’t bounce back to that,” Motion said.

Blacktype, by Dunkerque

Last 3 Beyers: 98-103-100

◗ Was beaten only two lengths when fifth in the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland.

◗ Typically does his best running from well off the pace and would benefit from a contested early pace.