Jaxon Traveler Takes G3 Whitmore by a Whisker

March 16, 2024

It was down to the wire and a photo finish for Jaxon Traveler (Inside) and Tejano Twist. (Coady Photography/Shelby Layne Ridgway)

Asternia, Blue Squall Give Morse Purple Martin Exacta

By Robert Yates

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – West Point Thoroughbreds’ Jaxon Traveler made a successful return to Oaklawn, holding off millionaire Tejano Twist by a nose to win Saturday’s $250,000 G3-Whitmore Stakes for older sprinters. 

Jaxon Traveler, a 6-year-old son of Munnings, opened his 2024 campaign with a fifth-place finish in the $150,000 King Cotton Stakes for older sprinters Feb. 3 at Oaklawn before winning the $100,000 Bill Thomas Memorial Stakes Feb. 18 at Sunland Park in his last start.

Ridden by Flavian Prat, Jaxon Traveler bumped his career earnings to $891,849 following his ninth victory from 28 starts. Jaxon Traveler also won the $200,000 Bachelor Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters in 2021 at Oaklawn.

“It was a good trip. Settled down nice on the outside. Made a good move when I asked him to go. I thought I kept a little something, but I knew it was going to be close,” said Prat.

The Whitmore was the record-extending 111th career Oaklawn stakes victory for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and his seventh at the 2023-2024 meeting.

 Tejano Twist finished 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Ryvit in the compact field, reduced to five, following late scratches of Cowan and Ninja Warrior. Surveillance and Osbourne completed the order of finish.

Ryvit (6-5) was slightly favored over Tejano Twist, whose late-running style was comprised by moderate internal fractions of :22.41 for the opening quarter and :46.23 for a half-mile.

Jaxon Traveler ($13) ran 6 furlongs over a fast track in 1:10.04. 

“Watching it live, obviously, I was hoping that he held on like he did. But definitely a big sigh of relief when (they) put his number up,” Asmussen said.

Asternia, Blue Squall Give Morse Purple Martin Exacta

Asternia runs away with the Purple Martin. (Coady Photography/Renee Torbit)
Asternia runs away with the Purple Martin. (Coady Photography/Renee Torbit)

It was a Randy Morse exacta earlier on the card as the trainer saddled the 1-2 finishers in the $200,000 Purple Martin Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters.

Asternia, ridden by Emmanuel Esquivel, finished 5 ¼ lengths ahead of stablemate Blue Squall, with Xtreme Smoke Show another 1 ¼ lengths farther back in third.

“She ran good today. She’s been working awesome,” said Esquivel.

“Last time I told the boss (co-owner/trainer Randy Morse) that I probably moved a little too soon because you don’t feel her. She just travels so nice and easy. She broke a step slow today. As soon as she got into the race, she relaxed. When I asked her, she went on.”

The Purple Martin was the first career stakes victory for Asternia, a daughter of Astern who is owned by Morse, Randy Patterson and Sam Vogel. She was exiting a runner-up finish, beaten three-quarters of a length by Xtreme Diva, in a first-level allowance sprint Feb. 2 at Oaklawn.

Xtreme Diva returned to win $150,000 Dixie Belle Stakes Feb. 17 at Oaklawn, beating Blue Squall by a nose in the six-furlong race.

Neither Xtreme Diva, the 2-1 Purple Martin favorite, or Blue Squall threatened Asternia ($9) in the Purple Martin. Asternia, who seized command turning for home, completed 6 furlongs over a fast track in 1:10.51.

“She ran really good. She’s actually been training very well. She’s always showed a lot more talent than her races have actually shown, but today she showed up,” Morse remarked.

Tx Women for Arts, Xtreme Diva and Brooklynn Drew, the early leader, completed the order of finish.

Asternia won for the second time in seven starts to raise her career earnings to $269,985.

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