World Approval winning the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. I) - Kazushi Ishida/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup

World Approval winning the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. I) – Kazushi Ishida/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup

To put it simply, World Approval is a beast.

The six-year-old gelding has long been a tough competitor at the Grade 1 level, even while running as far as 1 ½ miles, but when trainer Mark Casse cut World Approval back in distance to a flat mile last summer, the son of Northern Afleet became a force to reckon with. His decisive victories in the Fourstardave Handicap (gr. I), Woodbine Mile (gr. I), and Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. I) are evidence enough.

Suffice to say, World Approval will be tough to beat when he lines up to contest the $400,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes (gr. I) going a mile on Saturday at Santa Anita. Fresh off of winning the Eclipse Award as champion turf male of 2017, World Approval kicked off the new season with a sharp victory in the Tampa Bay Stakes (gr. III) going a mile and a sixteenth last month, an easy comeback win that should have him ready to roll while stepping back into Grade 1 company and returning to his preferred distance.

But World Approval will be facing some talented rivals in the Kilroe Mile, including Om. Best known for defeating Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the latter’s first race, Om has since gained a reputation as a very capable sprinter/miler on turf, with his best effort being a nose defeat in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (gr. I). Trained by Dan Hendricks, Om is versatile in terms of running style, but ended a lengthy losing streak by employing bold front-running tactics in the Thunder Road Stakes (gr. III) over this course and distance last time out. Don’t be surprised if jockey Mike Smith attempts a similar strategy on Saturday.

What a View won this race in 2016 and finished second last year, and in preparation for a third run in the race the seven-year-old gelding recently returned from a long layoff to finish sixth in the Daytona Stakes (gr. III) sprinting 6 ½ furlongs over Santa Anita’s downhill turf course. He could benefit from the return to a mile, though his front-running style could be compromised by the presence of Om.

Also entered in the Kilroe Mile are Bowies Hero and Next Shares, second and third in the Thunder Road; Free Rose, a two-time graded stakes winner back in 2016; Syntax, who ran second or third in three graded stakes races at Santa Anita last spring; and Channel Maker, winner of the prestigious Breeders’ Stakes against Canadian-breds at Woodbine last summer.

Post time for the Frank E. Kilroe Mile is 5:00 p.m. Eastern.