Jalen Journey making trip to Laurel for De Francis Dash (G3)

September 12, 2021

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LAUREL, Md. – A three-furlong blowout Sunday morning put the finishing touches on Grade 1-placed Jalen Journey’s preparations for the $200,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) Sept. 18 at Laurel Park.

Rockingham Ranch and David Bernsen’s 6-year-old Jalen Journey completed the distance in 38.17 seconds over Belmont Park’s training track, his fourth work since an 8 ½-furlong blowout victory sprinting 6 ½ furlongs Aug. 6 at Saratoga.

“The key now will be to see if he can repeat that race in the De Francis. That’s what we’re sort of looking for,” Bernsen said. “Then if he does that, we’ll probably look at the Breeders’ Cup [Sprint Nov. 6 at Del Mar].”

The six-furlong De Francis for 3-year-olds and up headlines four stakes worth $500,000 in purses joined by the $100,000 Weather Vane for fillies and mares 3 and up, also at six furlongs and a pair of $100,000 stakes going one mile, the Polynesian for 3-year-olds and up and Twixt for females 3 and older.

All four races are part of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship (MATCH) Series.

Named for the late president and chairman of both Laurel and historic Pimlico Race Course, the De Francis’ illustrious roster of winners includes Hall of Famer Housebuster, fellow sprint champions Cherokee Run, Smoke Glacken, Thor’s Echo and Benny the Bull, and Lite the Fuse, the race’s only two-time winner (1995-96) honored with his own stakes race in Maryland.

Jalen Journey is trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, North America’s all-time leader in wins who already has three sprint stakes victories in Maryland this year – the May 15 Chick Lang (G3) with Mighty Mischief, July 4 Lite the Fuse with Yaupon and Aug. 21 Star de Naskra with Jaxon Traveler.

Asmussen won the De Francis and Maryland Sprint (G3) in 2018 with Switzerland. The trainer’s other local graded sprint stakes wins in recent years have come with Yaupon in the 2020 Chick Lang, Wicked Whisper in the 2020 Miss Preakness (G3), New York Central in the 2019 Maryland Sprint and Vertical Oak in the 2017 Miss Preakness.

In 2018 Asmussen won the then-ungraded Chick Lang with Mitole, who would go on to be named the champion sprinter of 2019.

Asmussen nominated four horses to the De Francis, but Jalen Journey is the only one expected to run. The others are Jaxon Traveler and Grade 1 winners Yaupon and Jackie’s Warrior.

“Whatever Steve does with them seems to work,” Bernsen said. “Asmussen sort of has them surrounded in the sprint ranks.”

Prior to joining Asmussen, Jalen Journey was third in the Bing Crosby (G1) and fourth in the Pat O’Brien (G2) in the summer of 2019 after being purchased by Rockingham’s Gary Hartunian for $510,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s Horses of Racing Age sale that July following a runner-up finish in the Smile Sprint (G2) at Gulfstream Park.

Among the top horses Bernsen has owned with Rockingham are two-time sprint champion Roy H, a 10-time winner of more than $3.1 million in purses including back-to-back editions of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) in 2017 and 2018; and fellow multi-millionaire Stormy Liberal, the champion turf male of 2018 who counted the 2017 and 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) among his 12 lifetime victories.

CEO of Letitride.com, a global computer wagering business based in California, Bernsen plans to be on hand for the De Francis.

“I was just looking at my schedule. I’ve never been to Laurel,” he said. “I was talking to Aidan Butler [COO of Laurel Park owner 1/ST Racing] earlier in the week and thought that it might be a good one to come out and see.”

Notes: Roger B. Sterling’s Ms Headley ($16), racing first time off the claim for trainer Crystal Pickett, led from start to finish in extending her win streak to three races with a 2 ¼-length triumph in Sunday’s featured seventh race, an open allowance for fillies and mares 3 and up. The winning time for six furlongs was 1:11.31 over a fast main track … Live racing returns Friday, Sept. 17 with carryovers of $9,461.87 in the 50-cent Late Pick 5 and $4,259.14 in the 20-cent Rainbow Pick 6. Tickets Sunday returned $47.75 for four of five winners in the Pick 5 and $109.90 for five of six winners in the Rainbow 6.

Maryland Jockey Club Press Release

Photo: Jalen Journey (Ryan Thompson)

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