July 17, 2024

Geaux Rocket Ride lifts off in Affirmed, targets Haskell

Geaux Rocket Ride showed a new dimension in the Affirmed (Photo by Benoit Photos)

Scratched from the Santa Anita Derby (G1) with a fever, Geaux Rocket Ride resumed with a professional victory in Sunday’s $100,000 Affirmed S. The 1-2 favorite had an easier task after principal rival Skinner was withdrawn, but he still had to work out a trip for his first stakes, and two-turn, win. Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella is now eyeing the July 22 Haskell (G1) at Monmouth Park.

Geaux Rocket Ride was completing a weekend stakes double at Santa Anita for Mandella, both with lightly-raced sophomores. In Saturday’s Summertime Oaks (G2), stablemate Window Shopping improved from a troubled third in the Santa Anita Oaks (G2).

Although Geaux Rocket Ride’s profile wasn’t identical, he was likewise a gaudy maiden winner who was last seen placing in a major prep on the circuit. But the Candy Ride colt was different in that he showed high speed in a six-furlong debut romp. That made him the favorite on the stretch-out in the San Felipe (G2). Chasing the pace and ultimately outfinished by Practical Move, Geaux Rocket Ride held for an encouraging second.

A more relaxed style figured to help in his next route attempt, which ended up being the 1 1/16-mile Affirmed. A new rider was also aboard – Ramon Vazquez.

Campaigned by Jim and Dana Bernhard’s Pin Oak Stud, Geaux Rocket Ride showed that he could switch off in a stalking role. Indeed, the odds-on favorite enjoyed the proverbial garden trip behind a pair of dueling front runners. Del Mar Jerry and Hard to Figure duked it out through fractions of :23.27, :46.11, and 1:10.29. Hard to Figure won the pace battle by that point, but not the war.

Geaux Rocket Ride, who was rating so kindly that he had to be nudged to pick it up, obliged on the far turn. Sweeping past Hard to Figure, the bay opened up down the lane. Mr Fisk closed from fourth to reduce the margin to 1 3/4 lengths, without threatening.

Hard to Figure reported home a further six lengths back in third. Ze’bul, whose chances were effectively over with a bad stumble out of the gate, got up for fourth from the trailing Del Mar Jerry. Skinner was scratched Saturday when trainer John Shirreffs wasn’t satisfied with his morning exercise.  

 “I just wasn’t happy with the way he jogged,” Shirreffs told track publicity.

Geaux Rocket Ride, who took 7.01 seconds to complete the final sixteenth, clocked 1:43.75. A $350,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling, he sports a mark of 3-2-1-0, $180,200.

“I got a very good trip,” Vazquez recapped, “and I got in a position where I was really comfortable and when asked him, he responded very well. He is a really good horse.”

“He’s just a classy little dude,” Mandella said. “He proved he can go in or out (of horses). We will probably look into the Haskell. We are going to enjoy this one today, but that will be the one we look to.”

Bred by Oxo Equine in Kentucky, Geaux Rocket Ride is out of the Uncle Mo mare Beyond Grace. His maternal relatives include multiple Grade 3 hero and Irish classic-placed Lotus Pool; Group 2 winners Lear Spear and Montgomery’s Arch; Australian Group 1 victor Moriarty; and Pride of the Nile, who missed narrowly to Faiza in last December’s Starlet (G1).

As the spelling of “Geaux” hints, the Bernhards hail from Louisiana. The Baton Rouge couple acquired Pin Oak last year, eager to preserve the legacy of the farm’s late foundress, Josephine Abercrombie.

“It is just a special honor that we have to be the custodians of Pin Oak for now until the future,” Jim Bernhard said. “Hopefully we can continue (Abercrombie’s) great tradition she had at Pin Oak.”