First-Place Finisher Wondrwherecraigis Disqualified for Interference
LAUREL, MD – 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.”