SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Mark Casse thought seriously enough about scratching World Approval from the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap due to late-afternoon rain that he called Braulio Baeza, a New York Racing Association steward, two hours in advance of the race.
He asked Baeza how much time he had left to decide. Baeza responded that he would need to be informed 45 minutes in advance, standard notice before a stakes race at Saratoga Race Course.
“If it kept raining and kept raining,” Casse said, “I would have thought about it.”
He caught a rare break during a meet in which he has been seemingly star-crossed when the thunderstorms passed. World Approval did the rest on a yielding surface, repelling favored Time Test by 2 ¼ lengths on Saturday in the $500,000, Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap.
As Casse observed the group of reporters surrounding him for a post-race interview, he quipped, “This is something new. We haven’t done this in a while. It’s been a heck of a meet so far.”
World Approval’s strong response to a cutback to a mile for the second time in 22 career starts represented only the third victory of the meet for Casse. He began the afternoon 1-for-40, not the kind of results his quality stable is accustomed to.
“The meet has been frustrating,” he said. “Of the 40 some horses, probably only five of them ran bad.”
This time, everything broke his way, including his choice of jockey. When Julien Leparoux, his first choice, was unavailable, he settled on Manuel Franco partly because Franco had impressed him with his determination and athleticism during a recent charity basketball game.
Franco proved to be the ideal choice. He rated World Approved in third behind pressured pacesetter Sassy Little Lila, the only filly in the talented field of six. He swung the 5-year-old Northern Afleet gelding four wide as they turned four home and steadily pulled away. The winner completed the mile in 1:37.65. Sassy Little Lila retreated to fifth.
Casse admitted that his prerace concerns involved more than stormy weather.
“We weren’t sure about the cutback,” he said. “I felt pretty good when I saw him trying to run over everybody in the first turn. I said, ‘Well, we don’t have to worry about his speed.’ ”
Casse is already eyeing the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Del Mar on Nov. 3 and 4. Thus the significant reduction in distance after World Approval slipped back to fifth in the Grade 1, 1 1/4-mile Woodford Reserve Manhattan Stakes in his previous start.
“We cut him back because we thought if we are going to have a shot in the Breeders’ Cup, it’s going to be at a mile,” the trainer said. “Plus he likes a target, and when you’re running farther, he doesn’t get a target.”
Casse mentioned the Woodbine Mile as a possible goal for World Approval.
“We won the Woodbine Mile last year,” he noted. “I wouldn’t mind winning it two years in a row.”
Grade 2 $200,000 Adirondack Stakes: Undefeated Pure Silver advanced to graded stakes company for the first time and did so with authority, flashing overpowering early speed and whipping her rivals by 9 ½ lengths to extend her record to 3-for-3.
“She didn’t get away quite as easily as she normally does, but she made up for it quickly and got to the lead right away,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “She kind of ran them off their feet from there.”
The New York-bred daughter of Mission Impazible zipped through 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.22 for Twin Creeks Racing Stables. Her previous two wins came against state-breds.
Pletcher did not rule out sending her into even deeper waters, namely the Grade 1, $350,000 Spinaway on Sept. 2.
“We’ll certainly take a look at it,” he said. “She’s a filly who has carried her condition really well. Now having run three times, she looks fantastic.”
Horacio DePaz, who oversees runner-up Southampton Way, expects his filly to improve as distances increase.
“She’s just a steady grinder,” he said, “and she’ll want to go further.”