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Mike Smith aboard Geaux Rocket Ride returns after winning the 2023 Haskell Stakes
The $1 million TVG.com Haskell Stakes (G1) is New Jersey's most prestigious race, featuring some of the top East Coast 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles over the main track at historic Monmouth Park in Oceanport, looking for automatic entry into the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) under the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series "Win and You're In" promotion. Conditions were typical for late July on the Jersey Shore, with a fast main track, sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 80's for the 35,286 fans in attendance.
Arabian Knight was sent off as the 11-10 favorite in the field of 8, unraced since winning the Southwest Stakes (G3) in January. In to challenge him included 4-1 second choice Mage, winner of the Kentucky Derby (G1) before finishing third in the Preakness (G1), and 9-2 third choice Tapit Trice, winner of the Blue Grass (G1) but seventh in the Derby and third in the Belmont Stakes (G1).
61-1 longest shot Awesome Strong was quickest away through an opening quarter of 22.80 before Arabian Knight took over down the backstretch through a half in 47.11 and 3/4 in 1:11.65 stalked by Awesome Strong and pressed by 12-1 Geaux Rocket Ride and 5-1 fourth choice Salute the Stars. Turning for home, jockey Mike Smith moved Geaux Rocket Ride 3 wide to sweep to the front through 1 mile in 1:37.07. Kept to task by Smith, Geaux Rocket Ride drew off to win by 1 3/4 lengths over late-running Mage in 1:49.52. It was another 2 lengths back to favorite Arabian Knight third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 1 Geaux Rocket Ride Smith 27.40 9.40 4.80 4 Mage Castellano 4.80 3.00 8 Arabian Knight Velazquez 2.80 Winning Time: 1:49.52 $1 Exacta 1-4 64.00 $1 Trifecta 1-4-8 154.40 $1 Superfecta 1-4-8-7 876.40
Left: Geaux Rocket Ride in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Richard Mandella said, "He was the right horse for the right race at the right time. We talked about it and the horse has good natural speed and we realized that Baffert's horse (Arabian Knight) on the outside was fast and planning to go to the lead, most likely," said Mandella. "We thought we'd just let him run out of there a little bit, and he settled so nicely in his last race that we'd let that happen unless everybody took back. They didn't take back. We did. I was confident all the way."
Right: The trophy presentation for the Haskell with trainer Richard Mandella to the right of jockey Mike Smith.
Left: Geaux Rocket Ride in the walking ring before the race. Winning jockey Mike Smith said, "When Arabian Knight went out to the front I was very happy that (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. But I was glad someone else did the 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. 1 1/4 miles (Breeders' Cup Classic) shouldn't be a problem for him. This was 1 1/8 and he wasn't stopping."
Right: Jockey Mike Smith after winning the race.
Left: Second place finisher Mage in the paddock before the race. Trainer Gustavo Delgado Sr. said, "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. This sets him up going forward. It's a long year. There are many races more." Jockey Javier Castellano added, "I liked the way he did things every single step of the way today. I saw Mike Smith had so much horse, so that's why I tried kind of a premature, early move. He tried to go by that horse, but [Geaux Rocket Ride] rebroke. We were second-best today."
Right: Third place finisher and beaten favorite Arabian Knight returns after the race. Jimmy Barnes, assistant to trainer Bob Baffert said, "It's quite possible that the long layoff caught up to him. He hasn't run since the end of January. He jumped out of there running and he was just third best today. We're just starting the second half of the schedule (for three-year-olds) and there are a lot of races left to run." Jockey John Velazquez said, "They sent that horse and my horse got aggressive. I tried to settle the best I could, but now I'm having to work not to go head and head with him. It definitely changed things. It was a good third."
Undercard Stakes Results - including the Monmouth Cup, Matchmaker Stakes, United Nations Stakes, and Molly Pitcher Stakes.
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