Slump Buster

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Mark Casse sat with Charlotte Weber in her clubhouse box before the Fourstardave Stakes and told World Approval’s owner the truth.

“Charlotte, I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Casse said. “But I’m going to tell you this, he’s never been better in his life.”

After the Fourstardave, Weber had a question for Casse.

“Can we run again?” Weber asked. “Like tomorrow?”

Yes, World Approval was that good, dominating five rivals in the Grade 1 stakes run over a yielding inner turf course after an afternoon storm pummeled Saratoga. It wasn’t the Birdstone storm. Certainly not Little Current/Holding Pattern. And nothing close to Hurricane Irene when they cancelled the races. But, Saturday’s afternoon storm wreaked havoc on the best-laid plans of trainers who had all their bases covered except for Mother Nature’s wrath.

For the front-running filly Sassy Little Lila and the 6-furlong world record holder Disco Partner, the mile became a mountain. For six-time winner Time Test and millionaire World Approval, both coming out of the 10-furlong Manhattan, the mile slid straight into their wheelhouse.

“I looked at it and said, ‘It’s not going to hurt us.’ I thought it would hurt Disco Partner and for us, we were cutting back,” Casse said. “Let’s just say, it didn’t hurt my feelings.”

World Approval broke accurately from the outside stall as Manny Franco, aboard for the first time, allowed his natural speed to stake a prominent spot in third, outside Sassy Little Lila and Ballagh Rocks as the field ripped into the first turn. Tyler Gaffalione tapped the brakes of Disco Partner, conserving his speed, in fourth. Favorite Time Test found an inside spot even with Disco Partner. American Patriot broke awkwardly and galloped awkwardly into the first turn, lagging well off the peloton.

Sassy Little Lila cleared Ballagh Rocks to post the first quarter in :24.64 and a half in :49.86. Leaving the backside, Sassy Little Lila led by a length as Ballagh Rocks moved into a lane outside the filly and Franco guided World Approval into a stalking spot three wide. Time Test, under restraint, tracked those three and Disco Partner waited outside Time Test. Turning for home, Franco asked World Approval to engage the leaders, which didn’t take long. Sassy Little Lila wilted first, Ballagh Rocks second as Franco switched his whip to his left hand, smacked World Approval and powered to the lead. Time Test continued to gallop but couldn’t make up ground, Disco Partner flattened out and World Approval kept rolling, widening to a 2 1/4-length win over Time Test and Ballagh Rocks as Franco switched his whip back to his right hand, turned it down and then stood tall, pumping his whip in exultation of his third Grade 1 triumph. 

To read the rest of the Fourstardave recap, download Sunday’s digital edition of The Saratoga Special