Racing Roundtable: Red Route One and Oaklawn Handicap

April 25th, 2023

James Scully, Kellie Reilly, and Vance Hanson discuss Red Route One's Preakness (G1) hopes, the Oaklawn H. (G2), and what else caught their eye in this week's Racing Roundtable.

Did Red Route One advance his Preakness hopes at Oaklawn?

James Scully: Yes, Red Route One recorded a confidence-building victory in the $200,000 Bath House Row S., earning his first win since breaking his maiden on Kentucky Downs’ turf last September, and registered a career-best 98 Brisnet Speed rating. The progressing son of Gun Runner will hope to capitalize upon a hot pace in the Preakness, and the added ground may be to his favor, but a minor award more be realistic given his run style. Red Route One still doesn’t make up much ground on the far turn, last of nine turning for home Saturday, before unleashing a strong closing punch in the stretch.

Vance Hanson: Although “new shooters” have won three of the last five editions of the Preakness held in May, I’m not sold on Red Route One as a classic prospect. That view might need some reevaluation should one of his Rebel (G2) or Arkansas Derby (G1) rivals win the Kentucky Derby, but the view from above is that needing almost the entire nine furlongs of the Bath House Row to defeat the allowance-class Tapit Shoes and a distance-limited Victory Formation does not set him up especially well to defeat what will likely be a competitive field at Pimlico. Guessing he would need to improve several lengths, not to mention an extremely hot pace, just to crash the exotics.

Kellie Reilly: It’s significant that trainer Steve Asmussen’s thoughts went directly to the Winchells’ Kentucky Derby (G1) contender, Disarm, when cautioning that their Red Route One wasn’t necessarily automatic for the Preakness. Decisions are pending until we see how the Derby pans out. The Bath House Row was a definite move forward for Red Route One, who had been stuck in minor-award zone, but two things arguably helped: he was dropping from high-profile Derby preps to take on others similarly looking for an easier spot to regroup, and he was adding first-time Lasix. As a royally-bred colt by Gun Runner out of a full sister to Untapable, Red Route One could still have room to improve. Yet whether he’ll be ready to take the requisite leap on Preakness Day is another question.

Thoughts on the Oaklawn H.?

JS: Proxy needs to be ridden aggressively from the starting gate to deliver his best performances. He doesn’t have the speed to be on the pace, but the stalker can’t afford to be near the back of the field, sustaining losses in three of his last five stakes attempts when racing well off the pace. He needs to be in position to grind out wins. The five-year-old tracked in second when capturing the Clark (G1) in late November, and Proxy raced within five lengths of the pacesetter through the opening points of call in the Oaklawn H., advancing closer on the far turn to reach a menacing position by the top of the stretch. He registered a career-best 104 Speed rating for the head win.

VH: The Oaklawn H. produced an exciting finish, reminiscent of the edition five years ago when little separated eventual Breeders’ Cup winners City of Light and Accelerate at the wire. However, I don’t see any of the top three being up to that class. All of them are fairly well exposed by this point in their respective careers, and I assume Proxy, the worthy winner, will continue to struggle on occasion if he is unable to avoid things, like kickback, that tend to make him lose focus. They’ll still be viable players in certain spots, but I doubt we saw a potential champion in the race.

KR: When Proxy focuses his racing brain, he’s capable of top-class performances. But that’s always been the rub with him; he’s just not been able to harness his considerable physical ability in the cleverest way on the racetrack. Both the mental quirks and raw talent of Proxy were on display in the Oaklawn ‘Cap. After appearing to be in a reasonable spot, he lost position and got outmoved by Senor Buscador. Finally getting back into racing mode in the stretch, he flew to nail defending champ Last Samurai and the consistent Stilleto Boy. It’s unclear whether the cheekpieces made much of a difference, since you’d expect Proxy to stay engaged if the equipment did play a role.

Of the rest, Last Samurai was unlucky considering that Stilleto Boy came over on him and forced him to bounce off the rail. Stilleto Boy then shifted out himself in reaction, in the process shutting off favored Charge It, who had some run at that point. Charge It backed out thereafter. I wouldn’t hold his fifth-place finish against him, especially if he cuts back in trip.

What else caught your eye?

JS: One of the most exciting debut performances I’ve seen, American Rascal failed to break on top traveling 4 1/2 furlongs at Keeneland on April 20, but he blasted to the lead in upper stretch with overwhelming force, widening the advantage to 10 1/4 lengths on the wire. Joel Rosario was a motionless passenger through the final stages, and American Rascal will take his dynamic turn of foot to Royal Ascot for Wesley Ward. A Stonestreet homebred, the two-year-old bay colt is by Curlin and hails from multiple Group 1-winning sprinter Lady Aurelia.

VH: Of the Guineas trials held at Newmarket and Newbury last week, the filly Mammas Girl stood out with her last-to-first rally in the Nell Gwyn (G3) at Newmarket. Although somewhat of a biased observation, given I backed her at 16-1, Mammas Girl could not have looked any better closing with a rush along the stands’ rail and winning by nearly three lengths. A winner in both outings at Newmarket over seven furlongs, an extra eighth-mile is only going to help her in the 1000 Guineas (G1).

KR: I second the mention of American Rascal. As a son of past Ward star Lady Aurelia, he will add a new dimension to the annual storyline of Ward at Royal Ascot. So is the fact that American Rascal is the offspring of an all-Stonestreet marriage, being by Curlin. Interestingly, he’s bred on a cross that’s similar to Kentucky Derby hopeful Reincarnate. Both are out of Scat Daddy mares, and Reincarnate is by Curlin’s son Good Magic.

Aidan O’Brien also unleashed a potential Royal Ascot monster in River Tiber, a 10-length debut romper at Navan on Saturday. The first Ballydoyle runner by Wootton Bassett, a top French sire who was recruited by Coolmore, River Tiber appears to have the Coventry (G2) more in his sights than the Norfolk (G2). Thus we probably won’t get a River Tiber-American Rascal clash, with the latter likely for the Norfolk.