[image url="http://cdn.bloodhorse.com/images/content/rmandella_small.jpg"]Richard Mandella[/image]
Rock Hard Ten's impressive win in the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita against a field with aspirations for the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge has once again thrust Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella into the Breeders' Cup spotlight just as the Big Day approaches.
The win, punctuated by a move past highly-regarded Roman Ruler in the stretch, follows a seven-month layoff and marks the fourth straight win for the son of Kris S. since moving to the Mandella barn, while improving his lifetime record to seven wins from 11 starts with earnings of $1,870,380.
Join Richard Mandella as he answers your questions about everything from Rock Hard Ten's chances in this year's Classic to what it's like preparing for an event at which you rank fifth in all-time earnings and third in career victories.
Cedar Rapids, IA:
Mr. Mandella, Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with your fans! I was noticing how calm Rock Hard Ten was in the starting gate and was wondering how you finally curbed him of his aversion to it? He is such an imposing looking horse, how is he temperament-wise away from the track?
We did a lot of schooling at the gate including the morning of the race. Overall, we had to teach him respect and discipline as he is a very tough horse by nature.
Rock Hard Ten has always been my favorite horse of 04. I look forward to his start in the Breeders Cup Classic, but I would like to know how you think Rock Hard Ten will handle the Belmont surface. Also, is his running style anything like Citation? Obviously, he could have beaten Roman Ruler by much more if he chose to, and even though Gary didn't have him all out, it appears as if he only does what he has to do to win.
I think he won pretty easy, and Gary used him just enough to get the job done. I think he will handle any surface. I am too young to have known Citation.
Union City, CA:
Rock Hard Ten is only four. How much longer is he going to race? Last year you were asked how hard it was going to be to fill Pleasantly Perfect's stall. Is it full now? And are those two horses alike in any way?
There is discussion of racing him next year. The two are very similar horses in that they are big, strong, and good looking horses that can really run.
Congrats on The Rock's strong showing off the layoff last weekend. Sure seems like he stamped himself as the early line favorite in The Classic after stomping St. Liam in The Big Cap in March. At the classic distance, who merits the most respect of your competitors, Afleet Alex, Borrego, or Oratorio? Thanks and best of luck in The Breeder's Cup!
Maybe Borrego; he was very impressive.
Mr. Mandella, Your colt's Goodwood win was every bit as impressive as Borrego's win in the Gold Cup, though the media only raves about Borrego's performance. How will you continue with your colt until the Classic to ensure his fitness with just the one start after the layoff? Thank you. Sally Haemmerle
The biggest obstacle is over, having had his prep race. We will train him normally between now and the Classic.
Daytona Beach, FL:
Rock Hard Ten just seems to keep getting better with each race. It would be a shame to see him retire just now. Will we be seeing him again next year or is he headed for the breeding shed next year? -Triple Crown Karen
Next year is possible.
Coral Gables, FL:
What have you done different with the Big Rock (from his previous trainer) to bring out the best in him?
I think he just likes our cooking.
Who are you most worried about Rock Hard Ten facing in the Classic?
I try not to underestimate anyone, but I like my horse.
Ft. Lauderdale, FL:
Hello, Mr. Mandella, first I just want to say that you have done an outstanding job in training "Rock". If you win the Breeders' Cup Classic, will this race be his last? I hope not because this guy keeps getting better and better. I wish you could bring him next year to Gulfstream! Or I would love to see him run in Dubai against the best horses in the world, don't worry, Mr. Mandella, you got the best horse in the country in my opinion
Dubai is very attractive; we'll see?
Does the size of Rock Hard Ten influence you in the way you train him daily?
We use a large girth -- just kidding. It really is not a factor.
Hi, I would just like to say what a wonderful job you have been doing with Rocky... He is as beautiful as ever... Is Gary going to be riding him in the Classic; and what do you think Rocky will have to do in the race to win it? I wish you all the best...
Gary will ride, and he just needs to run his best race.
My question for you, Mr. Mandella, is after seeing RH10 after the Santa Anita race in March of this year he looked to be considerably down on weight compared to when I saw him as a three year old at the same track the previous year. Your comment please on why he was off until this past weekend (media reported that his back was sore) and if true, what have you done to treat the soreness and to get him ready for the BC Classic at Belmont later this month? Thanks.
He was stiff and sore all over after the winter Santa Anita meet. We gave him a long break and brought him back slowly.
Thousand Oaks, CA:
Thanks for considering this question. It seems that Oak Tree might be nicknamed Smoke Tree this year. With fire season upon us, do you feel that the air quality has a negative impact on the horses? Do you have any special precautions or thoughts for would-be trainers in the audience today?
I think the smoke could be a very dangerous; however, it was never bad at Santa Anita.
Laguna Niguel, CA:
I believe we have not even seen the best of Rock Hard Ten yet. Has he shown you any abilities in his works that he has only shown once or twice that we have not seen in the races yet? Some crazy easy move where he just pushes forward at a remarkable rate or just does something so easy where you say "Whoa, that was sweet" He seems to be effortless in his travel.
I agree, I hope we can run him next year.
What advice would you give to a young aspiring trainer (female)?
Get as many different experiences as possible. Remain humble and open to learning.
Charles Town, WV:
I've said on many online forums that there is no one I'd rather have training a horse than you. Your patience and attention to detail are unparalleled in my opinion. Who would you say had the greatest influence on your training style? Best of luck in the Breeders' Cup, and I wish you continued success for the rest of your career.
I have tried to learn from anybody I could and listened when people were talking. The most important: my father and Lefty Nickerson.
San Francisco, CA:
Richard: Rock Hard Ten appears to have improved considerably compared to last year when he ran against Smarty Jones. To what do you attribute this improvement? Thanks, S.G. San Francisco, CA
He just likes our cooking.
Is Rock Hard Ten a handful to be around, or one of those 'gentle giants'?
He is a very tough character; he only listens to those he respects.
Ozone Park, NY:
Hi Rich, Great job with RHT last Saturday! Be honest with us; if Alex was 100%, do you think RHT can beat him this year?
I think he is as good as any horse as long as he stays healthy.
Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico:
Greetings. Which horse has been the best horses you have trained? Is Rock Hard Ten among them? Sincerely, Francisco Alvarado
He's pretty good, Cisco. I think he fits well, but I don't know which was best.
When buying Thoroughbreds at auctions, how do you know if a horse will be a successful racehorse? What are some things to look for or things that should be avoided in horses?
You don't know, you can only guess which will be good as yearlings. I look for good presence, balance, fairly correct, pedigree, and mixed with a soda and lime.
Sugar Land, TX:
Laura's Lucky Boy ran a great race against the Leprechaun Kid last month, losing just by a nose. Then he came in third on Sat. Has he reached his peak or do you think he can do better? Also, just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed On the Muscle - A Year Inside a Thoroughbred Racing Stable DVD.
I think he was about 90% last week, he should get better. I'm glad you liked the DVD. Bill and Robin worked very hard to put that together.
Van Buren, AK:
I am the breeder of Megabyte. Would give me a composite of your estimation of him? When do you plan to start Megabyte again?
His job the last six weeks has been as a workmate for RHT, and he's a good horse --just not a great horse. There is an allowance race for him in about week.
Buenos Aires, Argentina:
Dear Mr. Mandella, I would like to know about your experience in running in the East Coast and how you think Rock Hard Ten will feel in Belmont Park.
I think he would handle any surface as long as he's healthy.
Have we seen the best of Rock Hard Ten?
He's pretty good, but I think and hope he can continue to get better.
I know Rock Hard Ten is a very big horse. How long is his stride? Secretariat's was supposedly 25 feet. Is Rock's longer? Is he the biggest horse you have ever trained? Thank you, Dave Brewer
I can't say that we've ever measured his stride, but it's pretty long. He is one of the biggest.
Rock Hard Ten looks like a Black Giant Locomotive. He looked awesome in the parade ring. Did you put him on special diet to get these result? He definitely looks a lot heavier and stronger than before. Good luck in the Breeder's Cup.
He's on a diet to fit his needs, and he gained weight with the rest he had.
Who's a better judge of horse, you or your son, Gary?
Saratoga Springs, NY:
Do you feel any sense of accomplishment seeing a former assistant in Beau Greely having so much success?
All of my former assistants are like family, and I take great pride in all of their accomplishments.