Racing Roundtable: Randomized steps up in Alabama; anticipation builds for Travers

August 22nd, 2023

In this week's edition of the Racing Roundtable, James Scully, Kellie Reilly, and Vance Hanson comment on what Randomized's victory in the Alabama (G1) means for the three-year-old filly division. The team mentions other eyecatchers from the weekend and look ahead to upcoming action, especially the Travers (G1).

Thoughts on the three-year-old filly picture after the Alabama? 

James Scully: Randomized proved much the best in the Alabama, leading gate to wire in a four-length decision, and she’s unbeaten when making the early lead, recording three frontrunning wins from five career starts. The Nyquist filly didn’t break on top in her first stakes appearance, recording an even sixth in the Acorn (G1) to Pretty Mischievous, who remains the overwhelming leader in the division.

The Sept. 23 Cotillion (G1), which will feature Pretty Mischievous, would provide an opportunity for Randomized to close the gap, but Chad Brown needs more than five weeks between starts to train his stakes horses. Randomized will likely target stakes against elders, and I don't give her much chance to surpass Pretty Mischievous.

Kellie Reilly: The Alabama ended Wet Paint’s hopes of assuming divisional leadership, leaving her Godolphin comrade, the absent Pretty Mischievous, as the pro tem leader. Yet it wasn’t an unalloyed “win” for Pretty Mischievous. Judging by how Randomized won convincingly on the front end, beating several prominent rivals beyond Wet Paint, there could be a path for the lightly-raced filly to mount a late-season charge for the championship.

Of course, Pretty Mischievous can control her own destiny by winning the Cotillion, which would give her a full resume along with the Kentucky Oaks (G1), Acorn, and Test (G1) (with its tragic asterisk). But if Pretty Mischievous loses the Cotillion and in the Breeders’ Cup, and Randomized steps up to defeat elders, the Eclipse balloting could get very interesting. Or if they both lose from here on, while the smashing Del Mar Oaks (G1) winner Anisette runs the table on turf, you could see her gaining support. The Cotillion is pivotal for Pretty Mischievous to close off those hypotheticals.

Vance Hanson: The victory by Randomized in the Alabama flattered division leader Pretty Mischievous, given the latter soundly beat Randomized in their only prior meeting in the Acorn. A rematch between the two in the Cotillion doesn't appear to be in the cards, so in order for Randomized to snare this title it appears she'd need a win or two against older fillies and mares: both in her Breeders' Cup prep, if she has one, and the Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) itself. Given the quality and the top of the older filly and mare ranks, an upset in the Distaff already looks a tall order. Pretty Mischievous is no slam dunk for the Cotillion, but if she were to win the Parx fixture it would be awfully hard to side against her for the Eclipse Award.

What else caught your eye over the weekend?

JS: Risk It impressed leading all the way in his initial outing Saturday, taking a six-furlong maiden special weight at Saratoga by 4 1/2 lengths, and registered a commendable 91 Brisnet Speed rating. By Gun Runner, Risk It gives Steve Asmussen another promising two-year-old stakes candidate. Hunt Ball is another to watch from the same heat. A half-brother to Cody’s Wish, the Into Mischief son split rivals and closed well to be a clear second. Bill Mott said Hunt Ball wants more ground, as well.

KR: Lots of options on the juvenile scene — the Prix Morny (G1), where Vandeek denied Ramatuelle on very soft going that might have been against her; Risk It’s smart debut at Saratoga; and Beholder’s daughter, Tamara, who overcame a troubled start to win first out at Del Mar — but I’ll go further afield to Japan, to highlight Prognosis’s big win in Sunday’s Sapporo Kinen (G2).

A five-year-old son of Deep Impact making only his 10th career start, Prognosis rolled by four commanding lengths over a field that included the likes of Danon Beluga, Hishi Iguazu, defending champion Jack d’Or, Win Marilyn, and Shahryar, who was planning to use this as a springboard to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). Prognosis is now in the form of his life, having captured the March 12 Kinko Sho (G2) and finished second to Hong Kong supremo Romantic Warrior in the QEII Cup (G1) at Sha Tin prior to his Sapporo heroics.

VH: It's always nice to see legends of the turf produce capable-looking offspring, and that's what we saw at Del Mar on Saturday when Tamara, a juvenile daughter of four-time champion mare Beholder, won well at first asking. She did so despite stumbling at the start and racing down on the inside throughout, which can be tricky for an inexperienced runner. It'll be fun to see her progress.

I also thought Aspray bounced back nicely in the Lake Placid (G2) from her dull performance in the Belmont Oaks (G1), in which she had no pace to chase, and is now bound for the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland in October. 

What are you looking forward to most this week?

JS: The $1.25 million Travers features three leading players in the three-year-old division. Forte and Mage are the probable top two betting choices, but I will side with Belmont (G1) winner Arcangelo. He registered a field-best 110 Brisnet Speed rating last time, the Travers marks only his third stakes appearance, and Arcangelo will have more to offer.

KR: With all of the marquee action at York’s Ebor Festival this week, and great matchups in several major races at Saratoga, I’d like to be more creative than saying the Travers. But the “Midsummer Derby” really is the most tantalizing, as the race of the season that should decide the three-year-old male title.

Will late-blooming Belmont winner Arcangelo continue his ascent here, and win the Travers like sire Arrogate? Will Kentucky Derby winner Mage reassert himself, after honorable placings in the Preakness and Haskell? Or will last year’s champion two-year-old Forte reconfirm his status as the best of his crop by beating all three Triple Crown race winners? The weakest of that classic trio appears to be National Treasure, who had a gift scenario at Pimlico, but has to deal with progressive pace factor Scotland here. Adding to the intrigue are the blinkers-on angles for Tapit Trice and Disarm.

VH: Clarity in the three-year-old male picture (hopefully) after the Travers. Among the storylines is the rematch between Belmont winner Arcangelo and champion Forte, who was a gallant second in the "Test of the Champion" despite being asked to overcome a 10-week layoff. Forte is still probably my choice as pro tem leader: he won the Fountain of Youth (G2) and Florida Derby (G1) over Mage, who won the Kentucky Derby in his absence, and also bagged the Jim Dandy (G2). Speaking of Mage, he's exiting the Haskell (G1), which has really turned into a negative prep for the Travers. He could certainly prove me wrong, but I'm cool to his chances of toppling both Forte and Arcangelo here.