G3 Winners Set for Matchup in $100,000 Lite the Fuse

G3 Winners Set for Matchup in $100,000 Lite the Fuse

Wondrwherecraigis, Jaxon Traveler to Tangle in 6F Sprint

LAUREL, MD – Well-traveled sprinters Wondrwherecraigis and Jaxon Traveler, who together have won 14 races including two graded-stakes and more than $1.1 million in purses, will share a starting gate for just the second time in Saturday’s $100,000 Lite the Fuse at historic Pimlico Race Course.

The eighth running of the six-furlong Lite the Fuse for 3-year-olds and up is the third of six stakes worth $650,000 in purses on an 11-race program headlined by the $200,000 Baltimore-Washington International Turf Cup (G3).

Other scheduled turf stakes are the $100,000 All Along for fillies and mares 3 and older going 1 1/8 miles and $75,000 Ben’s Cat for Maryland-bred/sired 3-year-olds and up sprinting five furlongs. They are joined by two more six-furlong dirt sprints – the $100,000 Weather Vane for 3-year-old fillies and $75,000 Shine Again for fillies and mares 3 and up that have not won an open sweepstakes.

First race post time is 12:25 p.m.

Wondrwherecraigis, campaigned by Michael Dubb, The Elkstone Group, Madaket Stables and Michael Caruso, and West Point Thoroughbreds and Marvin Delfiner’s Jaxon Traveler met previously in the six-furlong Fire Plug at Laurel Park. The 2022 season opener for both horses saw Wondrwherecraigis roll to a popular 3 ¾-length victory, with Jaxon Traveler finishing fifth after a troubled start.

It marked the fifth straight win for Wondrwherecraigis and earned him a shot at the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), where he wound up 10th. He returned to race three more times last year, running second twice including the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash, a then-Grade 3 race where he crossed the wire first in 2021 but was disqualified to second for interference.

Wondrwherecraigis has raced three times this year, winning his 6-year-old debut April 13 at Laurel and running sixth in the Maryland Sprint (G3) on the undercard of the 148th Preakness Stakes (G1) before rebounding with another strong showing in the July 29 De Francis where he ran second for a third straight year, this time a half-length behind fellow Grade 3 winner Lightening Larry.

“He ran really hard last time,” trainer Brittany Russell said. “I thought our horse ran huge and for the winner to beat him, he’s just a good horse. He came out of that race in good shape, and he’s been training forwardly. Hopefully our boy runs his race again.”

Overall Wondrwherecraigis owns eight wins and $530,670 in purse earnings and has two wins and a second in four career tries at Pimlico. He earned graded credentials in the 2022 Bold Ruler (G3) at Belmont Park, a month after being taken down in the De Francis, and also won the 2021 Tale of the Cat at Saratoga.

“At this stage of his life he’s getting older, he’s a gelding and he’s a quality horse,” Russell said. “As long as he’s healthy and competitive in these races, it’s like, ‘Why not?’

“He runs hard in these races here locally. We [could\] ship him to try and win another graded race here or there, which I’m not saying is out of the question for him again, but I think the goal is to just try and find spots where he can win,” she added. “You can see how hard he runs. When he runs, he runs hard so you don’t need to wheel those types of horses back fast.”

Russell’s husband, jockey Sheldon Russell, has been up for 10 of Wondrwherecraigis’ 18 races and gets the call for the fifth straight time. They will break from outermost post 8.

“‘Craig’ is such a dude. He carries extra weight, he’s never missed a meal, he’s just a character. Now, when you turn around and breeze him, he knows when it’s breeze day so he does put a lot into that,” Russell said. “I try not to have all his works be really fast. Sheldon knows him and he can sometimes trick him, which is key. But if you just put anybody on him and they turn around and breeze him in the morning he’ll go down there as fast as they’ll let him. He’s just that kind of guy.”

Like Wondrwherecraigis, the 5-year-old Jaxon Traveler is a son of Munnings that has enjoyed some of his biggest moments at Pimlico going back to a 10-length debut triumph in September 2020. Two starts later he became a stakes winner for the first time in Laurel’s Maryland Juvenile Futurity.

Bred by Dr. and Mrs. A. Leonard Pineau, Jaxon Traveler was named Maryland’s champion 2-year-old male in 2020 and followed up by being chosen the top 3-year-old male of 2021 after finishing third or better in all nine of his starts including stakes wins in the Bachelor and Pimlico’s Star de Naskra; a second in the Chick Lang (G3), also at Pimlico; and a third in the Quick Call (G3) on the Saratoga turf.

A six-time winner with $611,448 in purse earnings from 22 starts, Jaxon Traveler has three wins and two seconds in five starts at Pimlico topped by his lone graded triumph in the 2022 Maryland Sprint. He ran second in last year’s Lite the Fuse behind 2023 Golden Shaheen winner Sibelius.

“I don’t know exactly what it is, but he definitely loves Pimlico. Jaxon is beloved among our team and our partners, because he is very exciting, hard-trying, honest, state-bred champion racehorse. We’d love to have a whole barn full of Jaxons,” said Dawn Lenert, chief marketing officer and director of partner relations for West Point.

“We feel really good. Obviously going back to the dirt and going back to Pimlico we feel will be to his advantage,” she added. “There are some other accomplished horses entered in the race, but we hope that Jaxon can clear the gate well like he usually does and if he can get out there and do his thing, who knows, maybe he’ll take it home.”

Jaxon Traveler has run just once this year, ending a 237-day gap between starts in a 5 ½-furlong optional claiming allowance Aug. 23 on the grass at Saratoga, where he raced wide and wound up ninth. The Maryland Sprint was his only win from nine starts last year, when he also ran second in the Not For Love and third in the Ben’s Cat at Laurel and fourth, beaten a half-length, in the Fall Highweight (G3).

“He’d never had a break in his 4-year-old year,” Lenert said. “He needed a break and we just turned him out for a little bit and let him be a horse and then slowly brought him back. He was ready to go up in Saratoga, so we put him in up there. Obviously we would love for him to have a fabulous campaign for the remainder of his 5-year-old year so we figured heading to Pimlico is the logical next step for him. We’re looking forward to seeing what he can do.”

Feargal Lynch has the riding assignment from Post 5.

Built Wright Stables and trainer Ray Ginter Jr. entered the pair of Sir Alfred James and Cowan. Sir Alfred James comes back 11 days after running second by a half-length in an open six-furlong allowance at Horseshoe Indiana, which followed a third in the seven-furlong Russell Road at Charles Town 11 days earlier. Winner of the 2022 Russell Road and 2021 Holiday Cheer at Turfway Park, he has placed in seven other stakes including a third in the 2022 General George (G3) at Laurel.

Cowan will be making his 17th start and first since being claimed by owner Norman ‘Lynn’ Cash for $62,500 out of 5 ½-furlong optional claiming allowance turf sprint in May 2022. The 5-year-old first-time gelding has placed in stakes on both grass and dirt including a second in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2), and was a promoted winner of the 2022 Duncan F. Kenner on the grass at Fair Grounds.

Also entered are 2022 Gallant Bob (G2) winner Scaramouche, unraced since late February; Dollarization, 19-1 upset winner of the six-furlong Fabulous Strike last summer at Parx that has run second in three straight starts; Stage Left, whose 11 career wins include the five-furlong Rumson Sept. 5 at Monmouth Park and 5 ½-furlong King T. Leatherbury April 29 at Laurel; and Little Roo Roo, six-for-10 lifetime with three stakes wins against fellow West Virginia-breds.

The Lite the Fuse honors the millionaire bred, owned and trained by the late Maryland-based Richard Dutrow Sr. that is the only two-time winner of the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash, in 1995-96, when it was a Grade 2 race. Lite the Fuse also won the Carter Handicap (G1) those same years as well as the 1995 Tom Fool (G2) and 1996 Bold Ruler (G3) and placed in 10 other graded-stakes, including runner-up finishes in the 1995 and 1996 Met Mile (G1).