Jaxon Traveler returning home for Dave’s Friend

West Point Thoroughbreds and Marvin Delfiner’s Grade 3 winner Jaxon Traveler, a Maryland-bred champion in each of his two years of racing, will seek to take another step toward making it three in a row when he returns to his home state for the $100,000 Dave’s Friend Dec. 26 at Laurel Park.

The 19th running of the Dave’s Friend for 3-year-olds and up sprinting six furlongs is among six $100,000 stakes on an 11-race Christmastide Day program that marks the return of live racing following a week-long holiday break. First race post time is 11:25 a.m.

Bred in Maryland by Dr. and Mrs. A. Leonard Pineau, Jaxon Traveler was the state’s champion 2-year-old in 2020 and 3-year-old in 2021. He has raced eight times this year with one win, three seconds and a third, the lone victory coming in the May 21 Maryland Sprint (G3) at Pimlico Race Course.

Based in New York with Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, Jaxon Traveler has won three of his four career stakes in Maryland including the 2020 Maryland Juvenile Futurity at Laurel, where he has two wins and a second in four tries.

“He loves it in Maryland, and fingers crossed we come down and put on a good performance,” West Point executive vice president Tom Bellhouse said. “It’s exciting. It’s great to get him back at Laurel. It’s a great card they put together. It should be a great day of racing.”

Jaxon Traveler ran a career-best 97 Beyer Speed Figure in his most recent outing, finishing fourth – beaten a head and two necks – in the six-furlong Fall Highweight (G3) Nov. 26 at Aqueduct while carrying 131 pounds.

“This guy’s been knocking heads with everybody. I thought his race in the Fall Highweight was one of the best he’s ever run. He was just phenomenal,” Bellhouse said. “He’s not a big horse in stature and when they came down the stretch and they had those three, four horses all neck and neck and he’s carrying that much weight, I’m thinking the weight might have hit him a little more than a couple of those bigger horses.

“He’s as courageous as they come,” he added. “I was there and I thought at the sixteenth pole we might have a shot to win it, but you could see those last couple jumps he was fighting but he was getting tired with all that weight.”

Fifth in the July 30 Ben’s Cat sprinting 5 ½ furlongs over a good turf course in his last trip to Laurel, Jaxon Traveler hasn’t been over Laurel’s main track since running second behind Whereshetoldmetogo – a 13-time stakes winner retired last month – in the March 19 Not For Love.

“Hopefully he’ll have a nice 5-year-old campaign,” Bellhouse said. “He’s a cool horse. He shows up and, on his best day, he’s a graded-stakes horse. He didn’t do anything to dissuade us from thinking that in the Fall Highweight. He just goes out and does his thing. On a good day he’ll win and, if not, you know he’ll give you everything he’s got.”

The field also includes a half-dozen other stakes winners. Among them are Threes Over Deuces, the defending champion in this event; last out winners Karan’s Notion and Wendell Fong; and Beren, winner of the De Francis Dash earlier this year and just shy of $700,000 in career earnings.

Fall Highweight show horse Factor It In is the 5-2 morning line favorite, with Jaxon Traveler and Beren both 3-1.