Overlooked at 12-1, Geaux Rocket Ride enjoyed a confident ride from Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith to upset Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mage and 4-5 favorite Arabian Knight in the $1 million Haskell Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park on Saturday.
The 3-year-old bay son of Candy Ride gave Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella his second Haskell victory – the first came 20 years ago with Dixie Union.
For Mage, it was the colt’s first race since a third-place finish in the Preakness (G1) on May 20 – two weeks after his surprise victory in the Derby.
Arabian Knight, trained by nine-time Haskell winning trainer Bob Baffert, finished third in the field of eight in the third start of his career.
Leaving from the rail, Geaux Rocket Ride was content to let front-running Awesome Strong and Arabian Knight battle heads apart through the first half mile before moving up four wide approaching the far turn.
With Awesome Strong fading rapidly, Arabian Knight held a narrow lead before being confronted and passed by Geaux Rocket Ride in the stretch. Mage, also moving wide under Javier Castellano, hit his best stride in mid-stretch to duel with Geaux Rocket Ride before being put away and finishing 1 3/4 lengths back.
Smith, who won his fourth Haskell, said he was excited when he got the call to ride Geaux Rocket Ride, who won the Affirmed (G3) last month in just his third start.
The victory earned Pin Oak Stud-owned Geaux Rocket Ride an all-fees paid, automatic spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita in November.
“When Arabian Knight went out to the front, I was very happy that the 2 (Awesome Strong) went out there with him. He wasn’t getting away with anything easy and on his own, which I wasn’t going to let happen if someone else didn’t do it,’’ Smith said. “But I was glad someone else did my dirty work and I was able to tip out and just relax. I always felt like I had a lot of horse left, but you don’t know. When you get to them, they might, too, so I was just happy.”
Asked if he was concerned when Mage challenged Geaux Rocket Ride, the California-based Mandella said, “No. I was confident all the way.”
The winning time for the 1 1/8 miles was 1:49.52. Geaux Rocket Ride returned $27.40 for a $2 win bet.
“This horse is very, very good. I think that five works, six works would have been better, but I had only four (going into the Haskell). This race was very good for him,’’ Mage’s trainer Gustavo Delgado, Sr. said. “This sets him up going forward (to the Travers on Aug. 26). It’s a long year. There are many races more.”
Extra Anejo was fourth, followed by Tapit Trice, Howgreatisnate, Salute the Stars, and Awesome Strong.
Geaux Rocket Ride, who did not run as a 2-year-old, missed the Triple Crown season due to a high fever and high white cell count. He improved his record to 4-3-1-0. Mandella said the colt will be returned to California and is not a contender for the Travers.
Wet Paint rallies to win Coaching Club American Oaks (G1)
With Hoosier Philly scratched prior to the race (minor foot issue), it was Wet Paint rallying from last in a field of five to catch Sacred Wish in the final strides and winning the $500,000 CCAO at Saratoga Race Course.
“Super consistent filly, always comes running,” Cox said. “Her run in the Oaks was good and her last race at Ellis (second to Hoosier Philly) was probably better than it looked on paper running against a huge bias with no pace. I’m glad she stepped up and finally got that Grade 1 – that was big for her.”
The margin of victory was a neck. The winner, ridden by Flavien Prat, returned $4.90 on a $2 win ticket.
The writing team at US Racing is comprised of both full-time and part-time contributors with expertise in various aspects of the Sport of Kings.