Jaxon Traveler takes home Whitmore

The Old Boy himself led the post parade for the third Whitmore Stakes and Jaxon Traveler later Saturday entered the Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort winner's circle.

First, they ran it by the track photographer, who snapped a near dead-heat at the wire.

Make it two stakes wins in Hot Springs for 6-year-old Jaxon Traveler and seven this racing season for trainer Steve Asmussen, who may have champagne on ice for his record-extending 13th Oaklawn title.

Flavien Prat, here to ride for Bill Mott on Hall of Fame Day at Oaklawn, picked up the mount on Jaxon Traveler, not the most lauded horse in the Asmussen barn but certainly better than the proverbial empty stall.

"It was a good trip. Settled down nice on the outside," Prat said. "Made a good move when I asked him to go. I thought I kept a little something, but I knew it was going to be close."

Terry Finley's West Point Thoroughbreds reaped the benefits with the Maryland-bred colt, especially lethal in the home state of Edgar Allen Poe. Jaxon Traveler, by Munnings, won for the ninth time in 28 starts. The victory, his second over the track, matched his career-best effort in the 2022 Grade III Maryland Sprint on Preakness Day at Pimlico.

As a tune-up, also to establish a pecking order in his vast array of older sprinters, Asmussen sent Jaxon Traveler to Sunland Park in New Mexico, where he won a hundred-grand stake on the lead Feb. 18.

The 2021 Bachelor winner at Oaklawn, Jaxon Traveler sprinted clear in the stretch from stablemate and 2023 Bachelor winner Ryvit. The impending danger came from 2023 Whitmore winner Tejano Twist, whose midrace moves often produce wins over this track.

But not this day.

"Watching it live, obviously, I was hoping that he held on like he did," Asmussen said. "But definitely a big sigh of relief when [they] put his number up.

A previous $1.2 million earner for trainer Chris Hartman, Tejano Twist has not finished worse than second in his last four starts, winning the Bet On Sunshine at Churchill Downs in November and the Ring a Bell on Dec. 9 at Oaklawn. He was no match for Skelly, a Lamborghini in Asmussen's garage, in the Feb. 3 King Cotton, but not many are. Skelly is being pointed to a title defense in the Grade III Count Fleet Sprint Handicap April 13, winning last year by 2 1/4 lengths over Strobe with Tejano Twist third, that off losing (second) overseas for the first time since January 2023 at Oaklawn.

Surveillance ran fourth in the Whitmore after leading through a half-mile. Osbourne completed the field, reduced by the scratches of Cowan and Ninja Warrior.

Based in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., West Point bills itself as The Gold Standard in Racing. A 2023 appointee to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and 1986 alum of the U.S. Military Academy, Finley named his stable after the storied campus on the Hudson River. He was a co-owner of undefeated Flightline, 2022 Horse of the Year for trainer John Sadler. The Tapit colt sold for $1 million as a yearling and earned $4.5 million in six races.

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