A talk with Richard Mandella about Geaux Rocket Ride

August 14, 2023

Marla Zanelli with Past the Wire caught up with Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella to talk about his latest star Haskell winner Geaux Rocket Ride and where we may see him next

By Marla Zanelli

The first thing I asked Richard Mandella was how to say his name! Duh, Marla, Go Rocket Ride. Okay!

Geaux Rocket Ride was bred by OXO Equine LLC, which is owned and created by Larry Best. He was the chief financial officer of Boston Scientific, a developer, manufacturer and marketer of medical devices. He is the founder and chairman of OXO Equine, LLC. Geaux Rocket Ride is out of Beyond Grace by Uncle Mo. Beyond Grace was trained by Chad Brown and was unplaced as a race horse. She is a sister to Mighty Mo, a stakes placed ridgling. All this does not sound too exciting, but they must have seen something in this mare’s ability. Beyond Grace is out of Flowers Athefinish who is by Grand Reward and I had to look him up, never having heard of him. Grand Reward is by Storm Cat out of Serena’s Song! Now that bloodline grabbed my attention, as it should yours. I should not have to write further, if you know anything about horse racing, but to refresh your memory, Serena’s Song won 17 graded stakes races, including 11 Grade 1 races, some against males and older mares. She was foaled in 1992 and earned $3,286,388 racing. Some of her major wins included the Oak Leaf Stakes, Hollywood Starlet, Santa Anita Oaks, Mother Goose, Black-Eyed Susan, Beldame and more!

Geaux Rocket Ride started his yearling training at the Asmussens’ Training Center. Once he was ready for the big track, he was sent to Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella. Geaux Rocket Ride is a magnificent looking animal, dark brown/black in color, the color that glistens to be almost purple at times. He knows he’s the ‘man’ in the barn and loves to train. He’s acquired nick names at the barn such as ‘baby shark’. His groom has his respect but he prefers for people to stay out of his space. He’s a cool dude, according to his exercise rider Jose Contreras.

Geaux Rocket Ride gets in a gallop at Santa Anita. (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)
Geaux Rocket Ride gets in a gallop at Santa Anita. (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

To date he has four races under his girth, and he won 3, with a second in the San Felipe. He ran well in the San Felipe, but fell back off the pace to come back on and finish second to Practical Move, and just ahead of Skinner. Practical Move went on to become a favorite for the Kentucky Derby. Geaux Rocket Ride came down with a 104 fever after that race. It took a couple of weeks to get him healthy again and because of that time lost, he had to miss the Kentucky Derby. He instead stayed home and won the Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita.

Fast forward, where do we go now that we missed the Derby? Well Mandella does not ship unless he thinks he has a shot, and so off to Monmouth Park they went to the $1,000,000 Grade 1 Haskell Stakes. Here he was facing the Kentucky Derby winner Mage, a fan favorite Tapit Trice and a budding star in the Baffert camp, Arabian Knight. Mike Smith had the mount on Geaux Rocket Ride and so off to the airport he went after winning two races at Del Mar on Opening Day.

The Haskell was a thriller when turning for home Baffert’s Arabian Knight had the lead with Mike Smith and Geaux Rocket Ride in hot pursuit and right on his flanks. The Kentucky Derby winner Mage goes three wide and looks like he’s going by them. For several strides it was 3 horses all in a row,  but Mike Smith pushed on the gas and Geaux Rocket Ride responded with a 2.5 length lead to take the Haskell! Arabian Knight dropped back while Mage was full of run but could not catch the sleek Geaux Rocket Ride.

I asked Richard Mandella what was next, now that a little time has passed, and to see how the big horse was doing. Speaking quietly, he said well, we will consider the Pacific Classic, and if not, we will head for the Shared Belief for 3 year olds the next day. If Mandella has faith in his horse to beat older horses, we will see him on Pacific Classic day! Here’s to an exciting finish to the Del Mar Meet, with goose bumps waiting for the Breeders Cup Classic!

Photos: Geaux Rocket Ride in his stall at Richard Mandella’s Del Mar barn, Marla Zanelli, Past the Wire, Geaux Rocket Ride in training at Santa Anita, Ernie Belmonte, Past the Wire

Contributing Authors

Marla Zanelli, Past the Wire

Marla Zanelli

Marla Zanelli received her first horse for Christmas when she was 10 years old. Upon moving to Southern California at 15, she discovered Santa Anita...

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