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Jaxon Traveler Back On Dirt For Star De Naskra, 1 Of 4 Stakes On Maryland Pride Day
Jaxon Traveler (Credit: Maryland Jockey Club)

Jaxon Traveler Back On Dirt For Star De Naskra, 1 Of 4 Stakes On Maryland Pride Day

BALTIMORE, MD – 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 6 furlongs is among 4 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 PM.

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 the $75,000 All Brandy for fillies and mares 3 and older.

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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 August 7, Jaxon Traveler has never run worse than third in 8 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 4 wins and 3 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 1/2-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 August 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 2 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 3/4-length triumph over Mighty Mischief in the 6-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 5 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 3 wins, 2 seconds, and a third in 7 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 August 7, both 6 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 1/4 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 3 of his 5 starts. Carol Cedeno rides back from post 5.

Street Lute chasing eighth stakes win in Miss Disco

Lucky 7 Stables’ Street Lute, unsuccessful in her first try on grass and against her elders last month, returns to face her own kind on a more familiar surface in search of an eighth career stakes victory in Saturday’s $75,000 Miss Disco.

Jockey Xavier Perez has ridden Street Lute in each of her last 9 races, first climbing aboard to capture the 6-furlong Smart Halo last November at Laurel Park. Together they have teamed up for 6 wins, all in stakes, the most recent coming in an off-the-turf edition of the Stormy Blues June 13 at Pimlico, contested at 5 furlongs.

Other stakes wins for Street Lute came last year in the Small Wonder at Delaware and Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship and Gin Talking at Laurel, and this year in Laurel’s Xtra Heat and Wide Country, all at either 6 for 7 furlongs. She also ran third when stretched out to a mile in the Beyond the Wire March 13 and sixth against graded company in the Miss Preakness (G3).

Trainer Jerry Robb got a chance to try Street Lute on the grass in her most recent start, where she ran sixth after chasing the pace in the 5 1/2-furlong M. Tyson Gilpin July 19 at Colonial Downs, beaten a total of 2 1/2 lengths.

“We were hoping she’d like the grass because she’s bred for it. We got a good break and she was right there sitting in third, and when I asked her to go, she just wasn’t getting hold of the track,” Perez said. “She came out of the race like she didn’t do anything. It was like a little workout for her. She’s been tearing the barn down since.”

Perez is also Street Lute’s regular workout partner and said she was sharp in a final tune-up for the Miss Disco over Laurel’s newly reconstructed main track last weekend. They will break from post 3 at topweight of 122 pounds, giving away 4 pounds to each of their four rivals.

“She’s all fired up. She didn’t get to do anything and she didn’t get anything out of that race,” Perez said. “She worked last week in 59 (seconds) and change and that was really impressive for her, working on the new surface. She was really happy. She came back to the barn bouncing. I had to jump off of her because she was so happy.”

Perez said he was encouraged with the way Street Lute was heading into the Miss Disco, named for Alfred G. Vanderbilt’s Maryland-bred multiple stakes winner, dam of 1957 Preakness (G1) winner and Hall of Famer Bold Ruler and granddam of fellow Hall of Famer and 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat.

“She’s happy, she’s eating well, she looks great. She’s bright-eyed and just doing awesome,” Perez said. “I’m looking forward to the next race.”

Trainer Gary Capuano entered the pair of Hitch a Ride and Malibu Beauty. Rose Petal Stable’s Hitch a Ride was third to subsequent Monmouth Oaks (G3) runner-up Edie Meeny Mino Mo in a June 13 optional claiming allowance at Pimlico and most recently ran second in a restricted 6-furlong allowance July 30 to Down the Stretch Racing’s My My Girl, also entered in the Miss Disco.

ZWP Stable, Inc. and Non Stop Stable’s Malibu Beauty was a front-running 4-length winner of a second-level optional claiming allowance July 17 at Delaware Park in her most recent start. She won back-to-back starts this spring at Laurel and Pimlico to earn her way into the Stormy Blues, where she prompted the pace but was unable to hold off Street Lute and finished second by a 1/2-length.

Completing the field is Mens Grille Racing’s Response Time, a waiver maiden claiming winner May 14 on the Pimlico turf for trainer Hamilton Smith. Each of her 2 most recent efforts have also come on the grass, including a runner-up finish against older horses July 28 at Colonial Downs.

Alwaysmining looking to make new mark in Find

Runnymoore Racing’s Alwaysmining made his mark on dirt, capturing multiple stakes at 2, 3, and 4 and taking a brief trip on the 2019 Triple Crown trail. Given a new trainer and surface, the connections are hoping to rediscover his winning ways starting with Saturday’s $75,000 Find.

The Find will be the third straight try on turf and fourth overall for Alwaysmining, and second start since being moved to the barn of Cal Lynch. He ran third by less than a length in a 7 1/2-furlong optional claimer July 31 at Delaware Park last out, his seventh start of 2021.

“We’re trying him out on (grass). He’s a little older now, not ancient but older, so we’re trying out different venues for him. We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” Runnymoore’s Caroline Bentley said. “We were very pleased with his last race.”

With trainer Kelly Rubley in 2018 and 2019, Alwaysmining put together a 5-stakes win streak in the Maryland Juvenile Futurity, Heft, Miracle Wood, Private Terms, and Federico Tesio at Laurel Park that earned him a shot in the Preakness (G1), where he raced in contention to the far turn before fading to 11th.

He began last year winning Laurel’s Jennings and John B. Campbell before going to the sidelines in mid-July. Alwaysmining returned this year with a new trainer, Austin Trites, and won an optional claiming allowance January 30. Of his 10 career wins, 3 have come in 8 tries on wet tracks should forecast rainy weather move the Find off the turf.

“We’re happy with him. We’re trying to find spots for him and it’s hard. There aren’t that many out there for a horse like him,” Bentley said. “We’re trying to be a little bit choosy – we are with all our horses, everyone is – but we like him and we enjoy watching him race. We believe he still has a good future, so we’re just trying to take care of him and put him in spots that are good for him.”

Trainer Dale Capuano, winner of the 2008 Find with Headsandtails, entered Taking Risks Stable’s Cannon’s Roar. The 7-year-old gelding owns 6 wins, 10 seconds, and 7 thirds from 31 lifetime starts and has been even better on turf, going 5-5-5 from 17 tries.

Runner-up by a length in the 2020 Maryland Million Turf last fall, Cannon’s Roar exits a third-place finish in the West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker’s Cup August 7 at Mountaineer Park. The Find would be the first local race since last year’s Million for the son of Orientate, claimed for $16,000 in August 2018.

“He can run right out of his stall this time, so that should be a big plus,” Capuano said. “Cannon’s Roar is just a gem of consistency. He shows up every time. He’s been a terrific horse for us since we got him. I couldn’t be happier with him.”

Not run last year during a stakes schedule altered amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Find was last contested in 2019 and won by Mike Trombetta-trained English Minister. This year, Trombetta entered R. Larry Johnson’s 6-year-old homebred Street Copper off a 3 3/4-length optional claiming triumph July 27 on the Colonial Downs turf. He had run second 3 times in 6 previous starts this year.

“We were happy with that. He just hadn’t been getting it done, but he had been running good,” Trombetta said. “He’s trained good since. He ran really exceptionally well down there. He got a great trip and ran good, so it’s certainly worth a look in a Maryland-bred stake.”

Another son of Street Magician, Bell Gale Stable’s 2019 Maryland Million Turf runner-up Somekindofmagician, takes a 2-race win streak into the Find for Gary Contessa, who took over the 7-year-old gelding’s training this year.  Both victories came in starter allowances at Delaware Park, the latter by 1 1/4 lengths despite encountering traffic trouble August 7 at the Find distance.

“He’s done well in the Maryland Million before and he’s coming off 2 wins in a row here, and he’s kind of running out of places to run,” Contessa said. “It’s not an easy spot, but he’s a decent fit in there. He’s probably going to be 8 or 10/1, but you never know. He’s on an upward swing right now, he’s doing really good and he’s healthy and sound, so now would be a good time to give him a try at that level and see what happens.”

Trifor Gold, Benny Havens, and Closer Look complete the field. Tappin Cat and multiple stakes winner Cordmaker are entered for Main Track Only.

Kiss the Girl (Credit: Maryland Jockey Club)

Kiss the Girl Targets All Brandy

Three Diamonds Farm’s Kiss the Girl, winner of the Conniver sprinting on dirt earlier this year, will stretch out in an attempt to transfer that form to the grass in Saturday’s $75,000 All Brandy.

Kiss the Girl, a 4-year-old daughter of Into Mischief, is trained by Mike Trombetta, who won the last edition of the All Brandy with My Sistersledge in 2019 before the race was shelved last year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Previously trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Kiss the Girl joined Trombetta’s string last November and ran second in the 1-mile Geisha prior to winning the 7-furlong Conniver to kick off 2021.

Each of her last 2 starts have come on the turf, running fourth in the 7 1/2-furlong Peach Blossom July 7 at Delaware Park prior to a runner-up finish behind Quiet Company in a 1-mile optional claimer July 23 at Pimlico. Both the winner and third-place finisher, Judi Blue Eyes, return in the All Brandy.

“She came to us (last) fall and she’s very solid. She was coming off a layoff when I got her and it took her a race or two to kind of get in her best form,” Trombetta said. “We’ve run her on the turf a few times and she’s run good. We were just trying to get some continuity and run her and see how she does, and she’s done OK. Being a Maryland-bred race, she should fit in there just fine.”

James C. Wolf’s Artful Splatter is a multiple stakes winner on the dirt that is winless in 7 tries on turf, with 2 seconds and 2 thirds. Fourth after setting the pace in the Conniver, her last win was a 10 1/4-length romp over a sloppy track at the All Brandy distance in the George Rosenberger Memorial last fall at Delaware Park.

Willis Horton Racing’s sophomore filly Forever Dreaming, purchased for $300,000 as a 2-year-old in training last spring, debuted with a front-running 3/4-length maiden claiming triumph over older horses going a mile on the Pimlico turf July 16 for trainer Michael Dickinson.

Dendrobia (second in the 5-furlong Jameela July 4 at Pimlico), Good Life Cider, Awesome Jazz, Holly’s Lady, and Breviary round out the field.

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