Asmussen Prepares Jalen Journey For De Francis Dash At Laurel

A three-furlong blowout Sunday morning put the finishing touches on Grade 1-placed Jalen Journey’s preparations for the $200,000 Grade 3 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Sept. 18 at Laurel Park in Laurel, Md.

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

“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 in Baltimore, Md., 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 Grade 3 Chick Lang 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 Grade 3 Maryland Sprint 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 Grade 3 Miss Preakness, 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 Grade 1 Bing Crosby and fourth in the Grade 2 Pat O’Brien 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 Grade 2 Smile Sprint 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 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint in 2017 and 2018; and fellow multi-millionaire Stormy Liberal, the champion turf male of 2018 who counted the 2017 and 2018 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint 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.”

The post Asmussen Prepares Jalen Journey For De Francis Dash At Laurel appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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