`Leroy' takes next step

Trainer Shuman confident in today's $75,000 Maryland Juvenile

Horse Racing


Trainer Mark Shuman's voice was full of anticipation. His 2-year-old colt, Travelin Leroy, will compete in today's $75,000 Maryland Juvenile Championship stakes at Laurel Park in what Shuman hopes will be the kickoff to a fine 3-year-old campaign.

"Not to be cocky, but I think he's a better horse than the others in the race," Shuman said. "If I have him fit enough, not to put any other horse down, but if I have him fit enough, he will win."

Shuman said Travelin Leroy is, perhaps, the best horse he has trained and that today's mile race will be the first in a series that he hopes will take him to the Kentucky Derby.

"After this race, he'll go to Oakmont in Arkansas," Shuman said of the horse owned by Michael Gill, the nation's leading owner in both victories and earnings. "The short-term goal is the Arkansas Derby.

"After that, we'll see. But with every 3-year-old at the start of the year, with any kind of talent, you have to be thinking about the Kentucky Derby. You set them on the course and see if they can do it. And he [Travelin Leroy] deserves a shot."

The Maryland Juvenile Championship will be contested by nine horses, a good-sized field, said trainer Graham Motion, who will field Creve Coeur, the second morning-line favorite at 7-2 behind Travelin Leroy, the 6-5 choice. Motion will also field I Dot, who is 8-1.

"Anytime you have over seven or eight horses, it's good," he said. "This race was contested over 1 1/8 miles until this year. I understand that it's easier to fill the field with the shorter distance. The 1 1/8 was a sterner test, but as a rule the fields tended to be a little light because people are a little leery of stretching their young horses that far this early.

"But at a mile, we'll find out a little more about our horses."

Motion said he isn't that familiar with the other horses in the field, although he said he knows Travelin Leroy, with a win and a second in two starts, is "a competitive horse. I know they think very highly of him."

But Motion said Creve Coeur, who is 3-0-2 in seven starts, including being made the winner in the Maryland Million Nursery Stakes after a disqualification, is a nice horse whom he thinks will have a successful local career.

Travelin Leroy won his first race at Belmont Park by nine lengths at the end of May, and then was given time off.

"He's a big horse and he was growing," Shuman said. "I gave him time off to let his body catch up."

He came back for his second race Nov. 1 at Delaware. Shuman said the colt was not fully reconditioned at that point. He went into the race a little over weight, said the trainer, and finished second.

He has been training well at the Fair Hill Training Center since and Shuman considered running him in the H. Steward Mitchell Stakes on Nov. 26 at Laurel, but he came up with a sensitive shin and missed four days of training.

"Everything else was perfect, but he's too good of a horse to push, even with a pimple like that," Shuman said. "Now, he's going in this one. He'll be out front. He has the speed to be there naturally."

Notes -- Luis Garcia rode his 200th winner of the calendar year when Johns Rush captured yesterday's sixth race. Garcia won again aboard Jet Set Citi in the eighth. With one day remaining in the meeting, the 21-year-old is one win behind Ryan Fogelsonger for the fall meet riding title. Garcia also trails Fogelsonger in the year's overall standings at the major Maryland tracks, 144-142.smm2me@aol.com

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