The athletic playing field is always a test and that’s especially true in the Thoroughbred racing game. The three-year-old division features more pop quizzes than an eighth-grade science class. Given the lack of any real superstar in this 2023 bunch of males, the grade 1 $1 million Haskell on July 22 was more like a major exam. Who would make the grade? One promising individual aced it like an honor student.
Geuax Rocket Ride ventured East to Monmouth Park with lots to prove. This talented but lightly raced son of Candy Ride was on the early road to the Kentucky Derby before the injury bug bit. Shipping to Monmouth Park with two wins and a second in three career starts, this Richard Mandella trainee had given his hall-of-fame conditioner indications he had the goods to be a graded stakes winner.
“He came into the race training great”, says Mandella. “We knew he was up against a very good field because they don’t just give a million dollars away. He has always given us indications that made us think he’s good enough to be in races like this.”
After the eight runners loaded in the gates and completed their mile and an eighth journey over the New Jersey dirt, the hall of fame trainer’s thoughts were confirmed. Breaking alertly under jockey Mike Smith, this Rocket settled just off a solid pace (22.80 opening quarter, 47.11 half mile). Keeping his charge to the outside and in the clear, Big Money Mike knew it was Geaux time at the top of the stretch. Accelerating to the lead and moving back towards the rail, this is where the real Ride answered all the questions.
On the lead with about a furlong to go, Geaux Rocket Ride was confronted by Kentucky Derby winner Mage. Just when it looked as if the Ride might be in danger, this Rocket filled in all the blanks and even answered the extra credit question. Drawing clear when challenged, Geaux Rocket Ride finished a widening length and a half clear in a geared-down fashion.
“He finished in good shape and came out of the race healthy”, says Mandella. “Now we will just take him home to the West Coast and decide what’s next.”
Geaux Rocket Ride has now won two in a row and has earned $780,200 on the track. A logical next step could be the $1.25 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga on August 26 might be the next test considered.