November 21, 2009

Discovering Gone Astray

If you have followed Zipse at the Track from the very beginning, you know that one of my favorite horses in training is the Phipps Stable’s Gone Astray. I liked what I saw in the bay colt last Summer at Saratoga and I have followed him ever since. Unfortunately, every time that he would try graded stakes in New York, Gone Astray would run decently, but with no real chance to win. Sometimes talented horses need time to develop or sometimes it is just time for a change. For Gone Astray, that change was entering him in two-turn races. After eight races at one-turn, with results that did not seem to match the horse’s talent, his last four tries have come in longer races and the improvement has been exciting. Today, I look for the excitement to continue

The Shug McGaughey trained three-year-old son of Dixie Union returns to the races in the Grade 3 Discovery Stakes at Aqueduct. In the Discovery, Gone Astray will face only four rivals in the 1 1/8 mile race, but a couple of his rivals are interesting. Four-time stakes winner Haynesfield, a front-running winner against older New York bred stakes horses last out in the Empire Classic, and former claimer Bad Action, who has improved steadily for conditioner Gary Contessa, becoming a graded stakes winner in his last start at the Meadowlands, are the main threats. Despite the merits of Haynesfield and Bad Action, do not expect juicy odds for parimutuel purposes. Gone Astray's impressive scores in his last two races will assure short odds today.

After two promising races, but tough luck defeats, in his first two attempts over a route of ground, Gone Astray began collecting Derbies. On Labor Day, Gone Astray announced himself at Philadelphia Park in a big way. In the one million dollar Pennsylvania Derby, Gone Astray turned the stretch into his own personal playground. With Eddie Castro piloting for the first time, the attractive homebred exploded on the turn and ran away from the field of eight with shocking ease. When they hit the wire, Gone Astray was 9 ¼ lengths ahead. For me, it was affirmation in my belief that this colt had the talent to be a top horse. I quickly began to dream about Gone Astray entering the Jockey Club Gold Cup and running against some of the top horses in the nation. Shug McGaughey had no such dreams.

Less than four weeks later Gone Astray showed up in Northern Ohio to compete in Thistledown’s Grade 2 Ohio Derby. It was no competition. Castro patiently held his charge of a slow early pace, and confidently pulled Gone Astray to the outside on the turn for a clear path to comfortably run down the loose-on-the-lead War Fighter. Margin of victory was only 2 ¼ lengths at the wire, but it was easy win, and War Fighter finished more than seven lengths ahead of the 3rd place finisher. Once again, I was impressed and I thought bigger and better things might be in store for this three-year-old.

Instead McGaughey, who once thought the horse was best suited for sprint races, has found a somewhat easier spot for Gone Astray. I am happy to see Gone Astray gain in confidence while he is patiently placed and I will be patient as I wait for him to join racing’s elite. In the meantime, tune in for today’s Discovery and watch him roll. Despite his impressive wins in the Pennsylvania and Ohio Derbies, Gone Astray has not yet captured the racing world’s full attention, but he is high on my personal list. I consider him to be one of the most underrated horses in America. Only the future will tell if I am correct in pinning such high hopes on Gone Astray.


LDP said...

Here's to hoping he goes in and kicks some butt Brian. I've seen a couple of his races and he does look quite impressive. Hopefully your right and I get to watch him waltz on home.

Richard said...

Interesting observations. We've been watching this horse for awhile also. Only time will tell. Definitely loads of potential.

Brian Zipse said...

Ouch! That's why they don't run therace on paper...Congratulations to Haynesfield!

Amateurcapper said...


The race shape and GONE ASTRAY was compromised when BIRDRUN stumbled so badly...I don't know how Garcia stayed on! Eddie Castro on GONE ASTRAY was loathe to take his colt from his usual style. It's clear that he needs a pace battle to win against a speed type that gets a soft pace at the graded stakes level vs. older horses.

Losing favorites closing from off the pace like him really make me appreciate how special a mare like ZENYATTA who takes whatever pace is in front of her and wears 'em down in the lane every single time.

Anonymous said...

Two colts I was following from the beginning of their two year old debuts- Giromalo, Gone Astray. I gave up on them both around the time of the Champagne. It is always so nice to see them come back to their original promise, or close to it.
Haynesfield has a super lady behind him who studies horse motion and naturopath therapies. Nice to see Steve come back with a good one outside of the Jackson stable too.

I gave up on Imperial Council. Waiting for a comeback there too. I think McGaughey- Claude, not Shug- had Zenyatta's little sister too- Treasure Trail. Her two year old brother is a colt.