Kentucky-bred Geaux Rocket Ride defeated Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mage in the $1 million Haskell S. (G1) on Saturday, July 22 at Monmouth Park, earning a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) in November.
Rated well off the pacesetter through the race’s early stages by jockey Mike Smith, Geaux Rocket Ride swung wide around the far turn to collar the frontrunners. After engaging race favorite and previously undefeated Arabian Knight and putting away that rival, Geaux Rocket Ride fought off a challenge from a rallying Mage at the eighth pole. He asserted his superiority in the late stages to score by 1 ¾ lengths in the end.
“He was the right horse for the right race at the right time,” said winning trainer Richard Mandella, who captured the Haskell with Kentucky-bred millionaire Dixie Union in 2000 in his only other appearance in the prestigious race.
As far as race strategy was concerned, Mandella and Smith had a plan.
“We talked about it and the horse has good natural speed and we realized that Baffert’s horse (Arabian Knight) on the outside was fast and planning to go the lead, most likely,” Mandella shared. “We thought we’d just let him run out of there a little bit, and he settled so nicely in his last race that we’d let that happen unless everybody took back. They didn’t take back. We did.”
Geaux Rocket Ride is a son of Candy Ride (ARG) owned by Pin Oak Stud, which was acquired by Dana and Jim Bernhard last year. The bay colt is produced from the Uncle Mo mare Beyond Grace and he was a $350,000 graduate of the 2021 Fasig-Tipton July Select Yearling Sale where he was consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency and purchased by Jim Bernhard.
Bred in Kentucky by OXO Equine, Geaux Rocket Ride is now a winner in three of four lifetime starts and he has amassed a bankroll of $780,200. Prior to the Haskell, Geaux Rocket Ride won the Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita in June and finished second to Practical Move in the San Felipe S. (G2). A fever knocked him out of the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and kept him off this year’s Triple Crown trail.
The day following the Haskell, Mandella indicated that Geaux Rocket Ride exited the Haskell in fine fettle and a path to the Breeders’ Cup has not been finalized. He did share that a start in the Travers S. (G1) at Saratoga is unlikely.
“We’ll be making plans as he tells us,” Mandella said. “I don’t like the idea of bringing him to Monmouth, bringing him back to California, and then coming back for the Travers. We pushed him to this point, and we don’t want to keep pushing. The Travers doesn’t seem like the right thing to do.”