World Approval stamps the victory in G1 Fourstardave
by Heather Pettinger
Live Oak Plantation's World Approval found the yielding turf to his liking on Saturday afternoon, notching his third stakes win of the year with a 2 ¼-length victory over 2-1 favorite Time Test in the 33rd running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at a mile on the grass at Saratoga Race Course.
Breaking from the outside post, World Approval and jockey Manny Franco settled off the rail in third early as Sassy Little Lila, the lone filly in the field of seven, led through an opening quarter-mile in 24.64 seconds and the half in 49.86 with Ballagh Rocks a length back to her inside.
Franco swung World Approval four wide, catching the leaders at the top of the stretch. Sassy Little Lila faded along the rail as World Approval hooked up with Ballagh Rocks and took the lead near the eighth-pole. Time Test rallied late to get up for second, a length ahead of Ballagh Rocks in third.
"I just tried to stay out of trouble and I think that was the key," said Franco, who earned his first Grade 1 win at Saratoga. "I sensed the pace was good enough because they were fighting for the lead on the first turn. I knew the pace, and they were going fast.
"He handled the ground really well," he added. "I saw on paper that he had been on this kind of turf before and he ran really well. I feel so lucky right now."
World Approval, bred by Charlotte Weber's Live Oak Stud and carrying the co-high weight of 121 pounds, completed the mile in 1:37.65 over the inner turf. The Mark Casse trainee returned $12.60 for a $2 win wager.
The victory was the ninth from 22 career starts and the second Grade 1 for the Northern Afleet gelding, who won the 2016 United Nations over good ground. This year, World Approval kicked off his 5-year-old season with back-to-back stakes wins, winning the April 2 Turf Classic at Tampa Bay Downs and the Grade 2 Dixie at Pimlico Race Course on May 20 before finishing fifth in the 1 ¼-mile Grade 1 Manhattan.
The $300,000 winner's share of the Fourstardave purse increased the Florida-bred millionaire's lifetime earnings to $1,443,763.
"When we saw the rain was coming, Ms. Weber was concerned and we talked about it a few times, and I thought his race was so good in the Dixie, I thought the rain it wasn't going to hurt him," said Casse.
"The only instructions I told [Franco] was that he likes a target," he added. "That was one of the reasons we cut him back to a mile, because we thought if we could win the Breeders' Cup Mile or have a shot anywhere, it would be a mile [race]. When you run him farther, he doesn't get a target. [If it's] shorter, there's more speed, and he got a target and it looked like he loved it."
Disco Partner, the world record holder for six furlongs on the turf, checked in fourth, followed by Sassy Little Lila and American Patriot. Weekend Hideaway, entered for the main track only, was scratched.