World Ap­proval punches his ticket

The Buffalo News - - SPORTS - By Gene Ker­sh­ner Gene Ker­sh­ner, a Buf­falo-based turf writer, is a mem­ber of the Na­tional Turf Writ­ers and Broad­cast­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, and tweets @EquiS­pace.

REXDALE, Ont. – Trainer Mark Casse might want to make a habit of miss­ing out on at­tend­ing the Wood­bine Mile.

This was the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year Casse was not in at­ten­dance at the race and came out the win­ner. Last year, Casse faced weather is­sues and missed his flight to Pear­son Air­port in Toronto, while su­per filly Tepin cap­tured one of Wood­bine’s sig­na­ture races.

This year Casse de­cided to stay be­hind in Lex­ing­ton as the Keeneland Septem­ber sales are in progress, in ad­di­tion to hav­ing horses run­ning all over the con­ti­nent. “I’m at Keeneland look­ing for the next Wood­bine Mile win­ner,” Casse joked by cell phone af­ter the race.

Hall of Famer Johnny Ve­lazquez rode World Ap­proval to vic­tory on the fa­mous E.P. Tay­lor turf course once he se­cured the lead on the far turn. He never weath­ered a chal­lenge from the other 11 horses, cruis­ing home to a 2½-length win and a berth in the Breed­ers’ Cup Mile at Del Mar.

The win­ner com­pleted the mile trek in 1:33.05 on a turf course that was rated firm on an ab­so­lutely glo­ri­ous day at Wood­bine Race­track.

World Ap­proval re­turned $6.70 to his back­ers for the win, $3.90 to place and $3 for the show. Sec­ond-place fin­isher Lancaster Bomber re­turned $5.30 for the plac­ing and $4 for the show. The Euro­pean 3-year-old com­pleted a $2 Post Time-picked ex­acta for $42. Long On Value fin­ished third and paid $5.30 to show.

It was the fifth Wood­bine Mile win in eight ca­reer starts for Ve­lazquez, who was rid­ing World Ap­proval for the first time.

He used his own hand­i­cap­ping skills to de­ter­mine that if no one goes with him he could have his own way in the race. “The more I read the form, the more I looked at the horses, no one seemed to want to be on the lead. So I held the whole group all the way into the mid­dle of the track to see if any­body wanted to take the lead and no one went,” Ve­lazquez said.

A for­mer win­ner of the United Na­tions at Mon­mouth at 1 3/8-mile, World Ap­proval seems to have found his wheel­house at the mile dis­tance. He fol­lowed up his win in the Fourstar­dave Hand­i­cap with his sec­ond straight win at the dis­tance.

“I think he loved the mile, I think this is what he wants to do,” Ve­lazquez said. “The way he ran to­day was very im­pres­sive.”

Casse was quick to praise his jockey via con­fer­ence call for re­al­iz­ing the ride that the pace called for. Since the Fourstar­dave, Casse has preached that the son of North­ern Afleet likes to run at a tar­get be­fore mak­ing his move.

“When no one went with him, Johnny re­al­ized the sit­u­a­tion and rode him per­fectly,” said Casse. The mul­ti­ple Sov­er­eign Award-win­ning trainer will point World Ap­proval to the Breed­ers’ Cup Mile af­ter se­cur­ing the “Win and You’re In” vic­tory.

Sec­ond-place fin­isher Lancaster Bomber, re­ceiv­ing a healthy 12-pound weight break from the win­ner, started his run while ninth at the quar­ter pole. He started pick­ing off horses but just couldn’t get to the win­ner.

He was at­tempt­ing to be­come the first 3-year-old to win the Wood­bine Mile and made an im­pres­sive show­ing against older horses, ship­ping in from the United King­dom for the race. He was sec­ond in last year’s Breed­ers’ Cup Ju­ve­nile Turf and we’ll likely see him at Del Mar for his next start.

Jockey Wayne Lor­dan was sat­is­fied with Lancaster Bomber’s race and lamented the lack of pace as a bar­rier for hav­ing a re­al­is­tic chance to reach the wire first.

“I thought the race was run re­ally steady for my horse. He quick­ened well and got to the line well,” said Lor­dan. “Maybe a stronger pace might have helped, but he ran a good solid race.”

Keep an eye on the son of War Front, whose sire has had tremen­dous suc­cess with turf mil­ers. While he’s won only one of his 12 ca­reer races, he’s been run­ning against top-notch com­pe­ti­tion.

Ear­lier in the day, the in­side was the place to be on the turf and it was no dif­fer­ent in the fea­ture race. Jockey Joel Rosario aboard third-place fin­isher Long On Value, who went off at nearly 10-1, got caught out­side, which sunk his chances to catch the win­ner.

“When turn­ing for home I was caught on the out­side, not where I wanted to be,” Rosario said. “I caught a lit­tle traf­fic and I had to come around and that cost me some mo­men­tum. The horse that won the race was in the in­side, and he was in a bet­ter spot than I was. Every­one was in­side so I had to go around.”

It came down to a Hall of Fame-type ride from Ve­lazquez and good karma from the no-show trainer.

Ve­lazquez joked af­ter­wards that Casse gave him “no in­struc­tions” head­ing into the race and that he should “just go out and win,” elic­it­ing laugh­ter from the press corps.

Casse ob­vi­ously found the right recipe for win­ning the Mile in back-to-back fash­ion, and you can bet he won’t show up next year.

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