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LAUREL, MD – Jalen Journey’s win via disqualification of Wondrwherecraigis in the featured $200,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Stakes (G3) was the headlining result of Saturday’s exciting 4-stakes card at Laurel Park.
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It wasn’t the way they drew it up on paper, but Rockingham Ranch and David Bernsen’s Jalen Journey picked up his first career stakes victory Saturday at Laurel Park following the disqualification of first-place finisher and 4-5 favorite Wondrwherecraigis in the $200,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3).
The 30th running of the six-furlong De Francis for 3-year-olds and up served as the headliner on an 11-race program featuring four stakes worth $500,000 in purses, all part of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship (MATCH) Series.
In other action, Hello Beautiful earned her seventh career stakes victory in the $100,000 Weather Vane, Dreamalildreamofu bounced back to take the $100,000 Twixt and Captain Bombastic sprung a 10-1 upset of Grade 1 winner Roadster in the $100,000 Polynesian.
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 ($4.60), second choice in a field of six at 6-5, gave Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Feargal Lynch their second win in the De Francis, after teaming up with Switzerland in 2018.
“He was a nice horse. Switzerland was straightforward. He went to the lead that day and never looked back,” Lynch said. “That was easy. I was just steering. This one was a little tougher.”
Front-running winner of his two previous starts including the Tale of the Cat Aug. 13 at Saratoga, Wondrwherecraigis was outfooted for the early lead by Kalu, himself riding a three-race win streak, who went the opening quarter-mile in 21.98 seconds with Jalen Journey tracking in third. Wondrwherecraigis took over the top spot after a half in 45.11 and straightened for home with Jalen Journey on his heels.
Trying to give jockey Jevian Toledo his fourth win of the day and third in a stake, and a second stakes win for trainer Brittany Russell, Wondrwherecraigis began to drift out under Toledo’s left-handed urging in mid-stretch and was ruled to have impeded Jalen Journey, who finished second by three-quarters of a length. The winning time was 1:09.52 over a fast main track.
“I think I was going by and not just once, but the whole momentum of when I was coming to make my challenge I lost my track. He took my grind,” Lynch said. “Nobody likes to win like that, but he was the best horse in the race and he deserved to get put up. Even in the gallop out, he was two or three [lengths] in front.”
Stewards immediately lit the inquiry sign and Lynch lodged an objection. Following a lengthy review, the order of finish was changed.
“[Wondrwherecraigis] did come out of his path. He was getting hit left-handed,” Asmussen’s New York-based assistant Toby Sheets said. “It was kind of a hazing thing the whole way; no brainer.”
Kalu was third, 1 ¾ lengths behind Jalen Journey and 4 ¾ lengths ahead of 35-1 long shot War Tocsin in fourth. Whiskey and You and defending De Francis champion Laki completed the order of finish.
“There was the two speed horses and Jevian was the horse to follow. I think if we go head to head from the quarter pole I would have won if I was upside him going to the wire,” Lynch said. “Unfortunately I just had to wait until my horse started to pick up and when he did, typical of one of Steve Asmussen’s, they just don’t quit. They just keep grinding and grinding.”
Asmussen now owns four sprint stakes victories in Maryland this year. He previously won the Chick Lang (G3) May 15 with Mighty Mischief, Lite the Fuse July 4 with Yaupon and Star de Naskra Aug. 21 with Jaxon Traveler, all at historic Pimlico Race Course.
In 2019, Jalen Journey ran second in the Smile Sprint (G3) at Gulfstream Park and third in the Bing Crosby (G1) at Del Mar. The De Francis came six weeks after an 8 ½-length optional claiming allowance romp Aug. 6 at Saratoga.
One race following the De Francis, Lynch rode Captain Bombastic to an upset in the Polynesian for Asmussen.
“It’s great to win it again for Steve,” Lynch said. “I’m just thankful to be part of the team. He’s been very good to me and supports me when he comes into town. It’s a pleasure to ride for him.”
With her regular rider on crutches and watching from the grandstand, Hello Beautiful provided Sheldon Russell with a spectacular get-well gift as she rolled to a popular and emotional 10 ¼-length triumph in Saturday’s $100,000 Weather Vane at Laurel Park.
The second running of the six-furlong Weather Vane for fillies and mares 3 and older was the first of four stakes worth $500,000 in purses headlined by the $200,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) for 3-year-olds and up.
Russell’s wife, trainer Brittany Russell, fought back tears as she tried to explain how much the victory meant to her team, particularly since her husband – Maryland’s top money-earning jockey this year at the time of his Sept. 9 foot injury – will be out indefinitely.
“It’s really bittersweet. I had a tear in my eye, watching it with Sheldon,” she said. “She’s just so special.”
Madaket Stables, Albert Frassetto, Mark Parkinson, K-Mac Stables and Magic City Stables’ Hello Beautiful ($2.40), sent off at 1-5, had been ridden by Russell in 14 of her first 16 starts, eight of them wins, including six stakes led by the July 31 Alma North at historic Pimlico Race Course, his 1,500th career victory.
With Jevian Toledo up, Hello Beautiful broke alertly and was quickly in front as her main challenger, fellow multiple stakes winner Never Enough Time, stumbled from the gate. Hello Beautiful was in command throughout, coasting through a quarter-mile in 22.37 seconds and a half in 45.32 and opening up through the stretch to win under wraps in 1:09.56 over a fast track.
“She’s a really special filly. When you have a nice horse like her, anyone can win on her like that,” Toledo said. “I have to give her all the credit. I just put her in the front and she grabbed the bit the whole way. In the stretch I just showed her the stick and she took off, and when I looked back it was easy enough so I just took hold of her and she came back real easy to me.”
Toledo and Russell, both Maryland year-end champions and multiple meet leaders during their careers, are represented by Marty Leonard.
“We have the same agent and we are mates. You never want to see anyone get hurt. I feel bad because I know how special the filly is to him and for his wife,” Toledo said. “Thank God we were able to get the job done. Hopefully he can come back and ride her the next time.”
Stakes-placed Coconut Cake, racing for the first time since March 13, finished second with Never Enough Time 2 lengths back in third. Praise and Honor and Fifteen Royals completed the order of finish.
Full of Run Racing and Madaket Stables’ Dreamalildreamofu, placed in back-to-back Grade 3 stakes earlier this year, reeled in a stubborn Artful Splatter with a steady run through the stretch to capture the 39th running of Saturday’s $100,000 Twixt.
It was the second career stakes win for Dreamalildreamofu ($6.20) and second on the day for jockey Jevian Toledo, who captured the $100,000 Weather Vane with Hello Beautiful two races earlier. Toledo also won Race 3 with first-time starter Click to Confirm, like Hello Beautiful trained by Brittany Russell.
“It’s a very special day,” Toledo said. “I’m just blessed.”
A multiple stakes winner trained by Pimlico-based Kieron Magee, Artful Splatter was intent on the lead and opened up under Carlos Lopez through fractions of 23.45 and 46.24 seconds. Dreamalildreamofyou led the second flight tracked by Grade 1-placed Off Topic and Iowa Distaff winner Josie.
Artful Splatter was still in front and hugging the rail after turning for home as Toledo set Dreamalildreamofu down for the stretch drive. Drifting slightly to the middle of the track, the 4-year-old Commissioner filly came with a steady run to catch Artful Splatter and get up by a head while fending off Josie on her outside.
“I just kept my filly right in behind the leader and I know she’s a nice filly, so I was hoping she would do what she did,” Toledo said. “When I asked her, she responded and got the job done.”
Trained by reigning Eclipse Award winner Brad Cox, Dreamalildreamofu was second by 1 1/2 lengths in the Allaire du Pont (G3) May 14 at Pimlico and third by a length in the Chicago (G3) on Arlington Park’s all-weather surface June 26. She encountered trouble in her previous start when she ran ninth in the Groupie Doll at Ellis Park.
Team Hanley’s Captain Bombastic, a New York-bred son of Forty Tales trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Feargal Lynch, pulled away from Grade 1 winner Roadster down the stretch to win the $100,000 Polynesian Saturday at Laurel Park.
A 10-1 longshot, Captain Bombastic’s victory was his first under the shedrow of Hall of Famer Asmussen. The colt was previously trained by Chad Brown and Jeremiah Englehart. Captain Bombastic covered the mile in 1:36.11, winning by a length over Cordmaker, who was disqualified from second and placed sixth for interference down the stretch. Phat Man, who finished third, was placed second.
The Polynesian victory capped a big day for Asmussen and Lynch. Just 30 minutes earlier, Jalen Journey, trained by Asmussen and ridden by Lynch, was placed first in the $200,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) after winning favorite Wondrwherecraigis was disqualified from first for interfering with Jalen Journey down the stretch.
“It was a great day,” Lynch said. “Getting put up is never ideal. You don’t want to win that way. But sometimes you’re the wind screen and sometimes you’re the bug.”
Toby Sheets, assistant trainer to Asmussen, said of Captain Bombastic: “He had been training well. We gave him a bit of a break and lightened up on him and he came right back around. [Lynch] saw a hole and probably thought he should go for it after the last race.”
Captain Bombastic, whose last victory came in August of 2020 in the New York Stallion Stakes, was fourth in last year’s H. Allen Jerkens (G1) at Saratoga and sixth in the Chick Lang (G3) at Pimlico. On Saturday, in his second start for Asmussen, the 4-year-old raced third down the backstretch behind a :23.68 opening quarter set by Roadster and Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith, riding at Laurel for the first time since 2007. Approaching the turn, Lynch saw an opening along the rail and guided Captain Bombastic to the front. Roadster stayed outside Captain Bombastic past a :47.05 half mile and poked his nose in front again around the turn. But Lynch took the lead back entering the stretch and Roadster couldn’t keep up.
“With Steve’s horses, you don’t get in their way and you just get good position,” Lynch said. “When Mike left the rail open, it was either go in there or take back. But Steve’s horses…they’re warriors. It’s so hard to describe. You look at their ears, they’re flat back and they want to win more than anybody.”
Roadster, a $525,000 yearling in 2017, was a highly regarded juvenile and later a Kentucky Derby contender after winning the 2019 Santa Anita Derby (G1) for trainer Bob Baffert. But that victory has remained his last trip to the winner’s circle. He came into the Polynesian off a fourth-place finish in April in the Alysheba (G2) at Churchill Downs.
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