Heavily favored Geaux Rocket Ride rallies for an impressive 1 ¾ length win in the Affirmed (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)
Mandella Says It’s On To The Grade I Haskell Invitational July 22
Mike Willman/Santa Anita Press Box
ARCADIA, Calif.— Forced to miss the Santa Anita Derby due to illness, Richard Mandella’s Geaux Rocket Ride came back running in Sunday’s $100,000 Affirmed Stakes as he stalked a face pace and accelerated to a 1 ¾ length win, getting a mile and one sixteenth under Ramon Vazquez in 1:43.75, prompting his Hall of Fame trainer to say he’d point to the Grade I Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park for his next engagement on July 22.
Off at 1-2 in a field of five sophomores, Geaux Rocket Ride was content to sit a reserved third off of both Del Mar Jerry and Hard to Figure, as they slugged it out through fast fractions to the quarter pole. At that point, Vazquez tipped three-deep and assumed complete command as Mr. Fisk rallied from well back to complete the exacta.
A 5 ¾ length first-out maiden winner going six furlongs here on Jan. 29, Geaux Rocket Ride was most recently a solid second to eventual Santa Anita Derby winner Practical Move going a mile and one sixteenth in the Grade II San Felipe on March 4 and returned $3.00, $2.20 and $2.10.
“He’s just a classy little dude,” said an elated Mandella, who took yesterday’s Grade II Summertime Oaks with Window Shopping. “We will probably look into the Haskell (Grade I at 1 1/16 miles). We are going to enjoy this one today, but that will be the one we look to.”
Owned by Pin Oak Stud, LLC, Geaux Rocket Ride, a Kentucky-bred colt by Candy Ride out of the Uncle Mo mare Beyond Grace, got his first stakes win and his second win from three career starts. With the winner’s share of $60,000, he increased his earnings to $180,200.
“He is a completely good horse,” said Vazquez, who rode Geaux Rocket for the first time and notched a riding double on the day. “Today, it was my first time on him and he showed me what a good horse he is. I got a very good trip and I got in a position where I was really comfortable and when I asked him, he responded very well. He is a really good horse.”
Although he couldn’t go with the winner around the far turn, Mr Fisk put in a solid bid for second money and finished a half dozen lengths in front of Hard to Figure. Ridden by Juan Hernandez, Mr Fisk paid $3.20 and $2.10 while off as the second choice at 4-1.
Ridden by Tiago Pereira, Hard to Figure was off at 6-1 and paid $2.20 to show while prevailing by 2 ¾ lengths over longshot Ze’bul, who stumbled leaving the gate and was last to deep stretch.
Fractions on the race were 23.27, 46.11, 1:10.29 and 1:36.74.
Live racing resumes on Friday with first post time for an eight-race program at 1 p.m.