Jaxon Traveler back on dirt for $75,000 Star de Naskra

August 18, 2021

One of Four Stakes Worth $300,000 on Maryland Pride Day

BALTIMORE – After back-to-back tries on grass and synthetic, West Point Thoroughbreds and Marvin Delfiner’s multiple stakes winner Jaxon Traveler will return to both the dirt and his home state in Saturday’s $75,000 Star de Naskra at historic Pimlico Race Course.

The 28th running of the Star de Naskra for 3-year-olds sprinting six furlongs is among four stakes restricted to Maryland-bred/sired horses worth $300,000 in purses on the 10-race Maryland Pride Day program. First race post time is 12:40 p.m.

Also on the card are the six-furlong, $75,000 Miss Disco for 3-year-old fillies and a pair of 1 1/16-mile turf stakes, the $75,000 Find for 3-year-olds and up and $75,000 All Brandy for fillies and mares 3 and older.

Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, who surpassed the late Dale Baird as North America’s all-time leader with his 9,446th career win Aug. 7, Jaxon Traveler has never run worse than third in eight career starts with stakes victories in the 2020 Maryland Juvenile Futurity at Laurel Park and April 24 Bachelor at Oaklawn Park.

Overall, Jaxon Traveler owns four wins and three seconds, including a debut triumph last September and runner-up finish to fellow Asmussen trainee Mighty Mischief in the May 15 Chick Lang (G3) in his previous trips to Pimlico. He was bred in Maryland by Dr. and Mrs. A. Leonard Pineau.

“He’s never run a bad race in his career,” West Point’s chief operating officer Tom Bellhouse said. “We’re very happy with him. We took a little swing up to Canada, but I think we’re in a great spot going here.”

After a foot issue forced Jaxon Traveler to skip the Spectacular Bid in January at Laurel, Jaxon Traveler opened his sophomore season running second by a head in the March 20 Gazebo at Oaklawn. After a front-running triumph in the Bachelor and being unable to run down his stablemate in the Chick Lang, Jaxon Traveler gave Woodbine’s all-weather surface a try and was second behind Outadore in the June 20 Woodstock.

Most recently, Jaxon Traveler pressed favored pacesetter Golden Pal from the gate into mid-stretch before being passed late and finished third in the July 15 Quick Call (G3), a 5 ½-furlong turf sprint at Saratoga.

“He’s a really, really nice horse, and he might be even better at 4. I think Steve’s gotten really creative finding spots to run him and avoid some of the monsters of the division. We were just unlucky not to win the Chick Lang, but I think that we fit and hopefully against Maryland company I’m hoping we’re a standout,” Bellhouse said. “It’ll be good to hopefully get him a win.”

Jaxon Traveler skipped the Aug. 1 Amsterdam (G2) at Saratoga, impressively won by the Asmussen-trained Jackie’s Warrior, in favor of this spot. Sheldon Russell is named to ride for the first time from Post 4 in a field of five.

“I think this is just an unbelievably cool horse. I think he’s run against some really, really nice horses,” Bellhouse said. “We ran against two horses back to back that were Breeders’ Cup contenders. It’s no disgrace losing to them. I think it opens a lot of options for us in the future.

“Steve really has done an exceptional job managing him. When he told us originally that he was going to skip the Amsterdam, we were all a little bummed out, but now you look and especially when you see some of the other horses in his barn, I think he has a true understanding of the talent level of the horses he has,” he added. “We ran in two very nice stakes, we tried the grass, we tried the poly, and hopefully we’ll be a force in Maryland.”

Mopo Racing’s Alwaysinahurry became a stakes winner with an emphatic 4 ¾-length triumph over Mighty Mischief in the six-furlong Concern July 4 at Pimlico, his most recent start. In their lone previous meeting, the Great Notion gelding was fifth to Jaxon Traveler in the Maryland Juvenile Futurity.

“He came out of the last race well and he’s been training well, so he’s ready to go again. We’ll see what happens Saturday,” trainer Dale Capuano said. “I expect him to run his race. If he runs like he did last time, I’d think he should be pretty tough.”

The Concern helped Alwaysinahurry emerge from the shadow of his multiple stakes-winning stablemate Kenny Had a Notion, who is also entered off a runner-up optional claiming allowance effort Sunday. They ran 1-2, separated by five lengths, in the Maryland Million Nursery last fall.

“We’ve always liked him. He always trained well, but he just never really ran to it until we gelded him. He won after that,” Capuano said. “It was an easy race for him and he won easy. Then he came back in the Maryland Million and ran second, and he had a lot of traffic and trouble in that race. Then he won after that.

“He just started to come around. I ran him a lot as a 2-year-old, so we gave him a little rest and brought him back and he’s trained well when he came back,” he added. “Hopefully he’s matured a little bit and does what we thought he could do when he was young.”

Capuano, approaching 3,600 career wins, was particularly impressed with Alwaysinahurry’s Concern, which came with Jorge Ruiz up. Ruiz will climb back aboard for the third straight time from the rail.

“The horse that he beat is a pretty nice horse, obviously, and he beat him pretty easily. It surprised me how easily he did it,” Capuano said. “A horse like him, he can get a little bit better yet. His brothers got better as they got older, so I hope he does the same thing.”

Charles McGill’s Cry No More went unraced at 2 and shows three wins, two seconds and a third in seven starts this year for trainer Kieron Magee. He won an optional claiming allowance June 26 and set the pace before grudgingly giving way to be second as the favorite in a second-level spot Aug. 7, both six furlongs at Pimlico. Preakness Meet leading rider Charlie Marquez has the call from Post 2.

Grace Merryman’s Exculpatory will make his stakes debut after capturing a $75,000 handicap by 2 ¼ lengths July 20 at Colonial Downs. Co-bred by Merryman and her husband, Louis, and trained by Mark Reid, the Mineshaft colt overcame several obstacles to make to the races in March, and has won three of his five starts. Carol Cedeno rides back from Post 5.

The Star de Naskra is named in honor of the 1979 champion sprinter bred and owned by Carlyle Lancaster. He had a record of 15-10-4 and purse earnings of more than $580,000 from 36 starts between 1977-79, winning eight stakes and three graded-stakes, the latter during his championship season.

Maryland Jockey Club Press Release

Photo: Jaxon Traveler, (MJC)

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