The race for the three-year-old male championship got a little more contentious on Saturday when Geaux Rocket Ride threw his hat into the ring, defeating Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mage and 11-10 favorite Arabian Knight in the $1,017,500 Haskell (G1) at Monmouth Park.
Making only his fourth lifetime start, Geaux Rocket Ride was third entering the clubhouse turn and three wide down the backside, where he eventually settled in midpack. Geaux Rocket Ride took off after Arabian Knight on the far turn, collared that rival at the quarter pole, and then turned back a serious challenge from Mage in the stretch to win strongly by 1 3/4 lengths.
“The first day I saw this horse, I wanted to ride him,” said jockey Mike Smith, who was winning the Haskell for the fourth time. “He’s got so much room to grow. You saw today he took a big step forward, even off his last race, which was a great victory. This is probably one of the toughest Haskell fields I’ve seen in a long time.”
Smith previously won the 1 1/8-mile Haskell with 1994 Horse of the Year Holy Bull, in 1998 with Coronado’s Quest, and with 2020 Horse of the Year Authentic. Geaux Rocket Ride is trained by Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, who won the 2000 Haskell with Dixie Union.
Owned by Pin Oak Stud, Geaux Rocket Ride covered the Haskell course in 1:49.52 over a fast track and paid $27.40 as the sixth choice in a field of eight three-year-olds. Mage finished 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Arabian Knight, who was making his first start since taking the Southwest (G3) on Jan. 28. Completing the order of finish were Extra Anejo, Tapit Trice, Howgreatisnate, Salute the Stars, and Awesome Strong.
Geaux Rocket Ride has now won three of four starts and earned $780,200. A 5 3/4-length debut winner over six furlongs at Santa Anita on Jan. 29, Geaux Rocket Ride acquitted himself nicely when immediately thrown into the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe (G2) off the maiden win. He finished second by 2 1/2 lengths to Practical Move, but was forced to miss a rematch with that rival in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and thus also missed the Kentucky Derby due to a lack of qualifying points.
Regrouped for a summer campaign, Geaux Rocket Ride prepped for the Haskell by taking the June 4 Affirmed S. at Santa Anita over 1 1/16 miles by 1 3/4 lengths. In winning the Haskell, Geaux Rocket Ride earned an automatic bid into the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita, a race Mandella won 20 years ago with Pleasantly Perfect and that Smith has won four times.
Bred in Kentucky by OXO Equine and a $350,000 Fasig-Tipton July yearling, Geaux Rocket Ride is by Candy Ride and out of Beyond Grace, by Uncle Mo.