Hall of Fame Thoroughbred trainer Richard Mandella has enjoyed many wonderful achievements since opening his own stable back in 1976. As a force in the Southern California racing circuit, he has elevated the game with superior conditioning methods that always puts his athletes first. Preferring to allow his horses to take him to the “big” races, the wily California native has plans to Ride a Rocket to perhaps the biggest race on the regular West Coast calendar.
The Pacific Classic has been one of the crown jewels in California since its inception in 1991. No stranger to success in Del Mar’s richest race, this million-dollar event has seen Richard Mandella in the winner’s circle four different times. In 1996, he shook up the world as Dare and Go defeated the mighty Cigar at odds of 40-1. Proving he was no one-hit wonder, he won this Classic again in 1997 (Gentlemen) and 2004 (Pleasantly Perfect). The 2015 Pacific Classic saw a superior score by Mandella’s prize pupil Beholder. As the only female to win the Seaside Oval’s signature race, this daughter of Henny Hughes wrote a page in the history books for herself and her handler.
“If you are in this game the Pacific Classic is always one of the goals”, says Mandella. “It is certainly one of the top races in California and the entire country for that matter. One of the important things, however, is to target a race like this, you have to have a horse that can take you there.”
Mandella appears to have exactly the horse as it pertains to Pacific Classic quality. Geaux Rocket Ride has blossomed into one of the best three-year-old males in the country under the watchful eye of Poppa Mandella. Patience with this lightly raced son of Candy Ride (2003 winner of Pacific Classic) paid huge dividends in his last start. Shipping to Monmouth Park on the New Jersey shore, this Rocket blasted off with a convincing score in the grade 1 Haskell Stakes on July 22.
“We thought he was ready for a big race going into the Haskell”, says the crafty conditioner. “I don’t really like to ship horses a lot and we only went there because we thought he had a real chance at a big effort. You never know what’s going to happen, but obviously we were very pleased with how things turned out.”
After the muscle-flexing foray in just his fourth career start, Geaux Rocket Ride will face older horses for the first time in the Pacific Classic. Having always shown lots of promise since breaking his maiden at first asking on January 29, this grandson of Uncle Mo is not the salty veteran that his past Classic winners have been. But that Classic talent is there without question.
“We are coming into this race with a little different entrant than we usually do”, says Mandella. “He may be lightly raced, but he has become very mature and he runs like an old pro. We are only in this race because he has the talent to take us here.”
Geaux Rocket Ride will break from post one and is the morning line favorite (5-2) in a field of eleven. The Pacific Classic on September 2 is race ten on an eleven-race card that features five Stakes races.