Family Tree: Rocket Wrangler

Rocket Wrangler proved himself a great race horse and superb breeding stallion who passed on a willing temperament to later generations.

From America's Horse

Rocket Wrangler. Rocket Wrangler. How’s that for a name for a racing American Quarter Horse – the horse of the cowboy, the fastest breed on earth? It says it all. “He was small, and I was taking him slow,” said American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame trainer C.W. “Bubba” Cascio, who developed the colt who would have a lasting impact on the breed. “The first time I beared down on him, I said, ‘Well, lookee here.’ Jerry come back – Jerry (Nicodemus) was doing all my riding then – and he said, ‘Say, we might have something here.’ So we began to bear down on him. From then on, it was just history. He was a runner.” Rocket Wrangler proved it. The champion 2-year-old colt in 1970, Rocket Wrangler started 23 races between 1970 and 1973, coming back a winner from 10 and bringing home $252,167 in earnings. Winning his maiden race, he finished farther back in the Grade 1 Kansas Futurity, the first stop on Ruidoso Downs’ triple-crown trail. Then, with Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Nicodemus in the irons, Rocket Wrangler swept the next two, taking the Grade 1 Rainbow Futurity and Quarter Horse racing’s flagship event, the Grade 1 All American Futurity.

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Bred by Thayer Hobson of Texas, Rocket Wrangler was one of five champions by the Thoroughbred Rocket Bar, arguably Three Bars’ best son. The sorrel colt was out of Go Galla Go, a track-record-setting stakes winner by Go Man Go, whom Thayer owned in partnership with Bubba. Thayer died, and his widow sold the yearling colt to J.R. Adams, a paving contractor at Guymon, Oklahoma. J.R. paid Rocket Wrangler into the All American, a race in which he would break from the 8 post on his way to his crowning glory on the track. “We had a box downstairs, and I can remember trying to get through the group to get to the winner’s circle,” JoAnn Adams said of their day at the All American. “It was just wall-to-wall people, and I was trying so hard to get there. It was so crazy. A day or two before, I dreamed that Rocket Wrangler was No. 8 – it was so funny – and that he won the race. …It was just a weird thing back then.”

What was not weird, according to his connections, was how Rocket Wrangler’s success on the track translated into success at stud. The progenitor of the earners of $9,407,809 in an era of much lower purses, Rocket Wrangler sired 56 stakes winners, including two-time AQHA world champion and Hall of Famer Dash For Cash. Rocket Wrangler was a great broodmare sire, with $14.6 million earned on the track, including Grade 1 winner Miami Cartel, more than $14,500 in National Cutting Horse Association earnings and more than 2,000 points in AQHA competition. What made Rocket Wrangler great, Bubba said, is simple. “His attitude,” Bubba was quick to declare. “He had a wonderful attitude, and he passed it right on to Dash For Cash. All those ‘Dash’ colts, what made them so great was the attitude of the old horse Rocket Wrangler, who passed it on. Consequently, the reason so many different people got the Dashs to run, I think, was because of their temperament. Everybody could get along with them. They were smart horses, whereas the Depth Charge (TB) horses, the Top Deck (TB) horses, the Little Request horses and the Go Man Gos, it took a cowboy to saddle some of ’em. The Dash colts just got along with everybody and done everything in the world to please you – never bit, kicked, fought, bucked, whatever. And I think that came from that horse. … They were not just fast horses, they were smart, good horses, and they looked good and could run fast.” The man who rode Rocket Wrangler agrees.

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“He was a good-minded horse and easy to get along with,” said Jerry, who has often said that Dash For Cash was the best horse he ever rode. “Rocket Wrangler – at that time, I knew he was the best horse I ever rode. That was back in ’70. I still rank him right there in the top 10 of everything I rode in my career.” Fair enough. But beyond everything Rocket Wrangler did on the track was the heritage he bequeathed to the fastest horses on earth. Rocket Wrangler was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2010.