World Approval, the 2017 champion turf male, is set to use Saturday’s $175,000 Tampa Bay (G3) as a springboard to greater riches in Dubai next month. The Mark Casse-trained six-year-old, who began his championship campaign at Tampa Bay Downs last season, will be an overwhelming favorite in the 1 1/16-mile test facing nine others.
Following up early-season wins in the Florida Cup Turf Classic at Tampa and the Dixie (G2) at Pimlico with three straight in the Fourstardave H. (G1), Woodbine Mile (G1), and Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), World Approval joined half-brother Miesque’s Approval (2006) on the grass champion roster. Two-for-two lifetime on the Tampa lawn, the race serves as a tune-up for the $5 million Dubai Turf (G1) at Meydan on March 31.
Fire Away, also six, hit a new peak when taking the $150,000 Artie Schiller at Aqueduct on November 18 and figures to be a solid second choice. The multiple graded-placed Forge has been inconsistent since arriving in the U.S. for the 2017 season, but did run second to Heart to Heart in the Bernard Baruch (G2) on yielding ground last September at Saratoga.
Doctor Mounty and Western Reserve ran two in a course-and-distance prep for the Tampa Bay last month, while Noble Thought ran fourth in his local prep after previously posting a 3-1-2-0 mark on this turf.
Casse also has a significant returnee, La Coronel, for the $175,000 Endeavour (G3) for fillies and mares, also at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. A surprise second over the course in the Florida Oaks (G3) last term, the Colonel John filly went on to win three graded stakes, capped by a wire-to-wire score in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1).
Argentinean Dona Bruja gained notice in the Midwest last summer, taking the Mint Julep H. (G3) and Modesty H. (G3) with impressive stretch kicks. After finishing in a dead heat for second in the Beverly D. (G1), she was a below-par fourth in the First Lady (G1) in her season finale.
Among the others in the field, Lovely Loyree placed in both the Endeavour and Hillsborough (G2) behind Tepin two seasons ago, while the lightly-raced Truly Together, a six-year-old daughter of grass champion mare Forever Together, makes her stakes debut following a second-place finish in a Gulfstream allowance following a spell of 19 months.