Jaxon Traveler
Jaxon Traveler won the Maryland Juvenile Futurity. Photo Maryland Jockey Club.

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.

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.”

Jaxon Traveler will face only four rivals in the Star de Naskra, but that number includes stakes winners Alwaysinahurry, both for trainer Dale Capuano, as well as Cry No More and Exculpatory.