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Gone Astray seeks Razorback win

Gone Astray has finished off-the-board only three times during his 13-race career (Melissa Wirth/Horsephotos.com)

Shug McGaughey, away from Oaklawn Park for most of the last decade, last won at the Hot Springs, Arkansas, venue in 2001 when he shipped in with Ogden Phipps' Traditionally to win the trainer's second Oaklawn H. (G1). On Saturday, he'll try to get another Phipps Stable homebred into the winner's circle when sending out GONE ASTRAY (Dixie Union) in the $150,000 Razorback H. (G3).

Gone Astray shipped in to Oaklawn Park Wednesday evening from McGaughey's Payson Park barn in Florida. A 9 1/4-length winner of last season's Pennsylvania Derby and a 2 1/4-length scorer of the Ohio Derby (G2), Gone Astray had been at Payson for a refresher since his third-place finish in the Discovery H. (G3) at Aqueduct on November 21. He's been assigned the highweight of 119 pounds under jockey Eddie Castro in the 1 1/16-mile Razorback.

"He had three weeks off, then three weeks back easy before we put him back in training," said Robby Medina, who oversees McGaughey's Payson division. "We haven't worked him too hard, he's not a big heavy horse. But he does do what you want him to do.

"This is a nice horse to be around," Medina said of Gone Astray. "He's not a fussy horse, but a workingman's kind of horse. He's not going to wow you, but he does what you want. He's well behaved and he ships well. Plane, van, whatever."

The four-year-old dark bay has raced in New York, Florida and New Jersey as well as making forays into Pennsylvania and Ohio for his Derby wins.

"He liked the tighter turns in Pennsylvania and we think he'll like this track, too," Medina said. "He comes in with no excuses. We've been pointing to this race for a long time. Hopefully, we'll then give him a chance in the (April 3) Oaklawn H. (G2).

"Our ultimate goal is the (August 7) Whitney (G1) at Saratoga," Medina added. "He likes Saratoga."

Facing Gone Astray will be seven challengers, including 2008 Razorback champion JONESBORO (Sefapiano), whom is training well for this year's renewal, trainer Randy Morse reports.

"He doesn't put as much into his works as he used to," Morse said. "But he hasn't stayed around as long as he has by being dumb."

Jonesboro, a son of champion and Hall of Famer Mom's Command (Top Command), was fourth in the February 6 Essex H., the prep for the Razorback.

"He's a little older now, so it takes him a couple of races to get good," Morse explained. "We'll take the same route as last year after Oaklawn. Last year was his best year when he won the Texas Mile (G3) and was second in the Lone Star (Park) Handicap (G3)."

An earner of more than $1.4 million, Jonesboro ran sixth in last year's Razorback, but parlayed that finish into a third, placing second via disqualification, in the Oaklawn H.

"I'd love to try the Oaklawn Handicap if he runs well Saturday," Morse said. "But that's a different level of horses."

Also entered in the Razorback are the top three finishers from the Essex. RACING BRAN (Awesome Again) dominated by 4 1/4 lengths in front-running fashion in that test, while WIN WILLY (Monarchos) just held PROM SHOES (Include) to third by a neck on the line.

Rounding out the Razorback field are ACTING ZIPPY (City Zip), who captured the John B. Connally Turf H. (G3) in January; Grade 3 winner SPOTSGONE (Bright Launch), who ran second in an allowance last out following an eighth-place finish in the Essex; and MAD FLATTER (Flatter), an allowance/optional claiming winner most recently.

Two races later on Oaklawn's Saturday card, a field of nine distaffers has been entered to go 8 1/2 furlongs in the $150,000 Azeri S. (G3). Toting the top weight of 122 pounds will be SUPERIOR STORM (Stormy Atlantic), who could use this one as a springboard to another try in the Apple Blossom (G1).

In last year's running of that 1 1/16-mile event, the Ron Jackson trainee filled the runner-up spot after pressing the pace. She concluded 2009 with a win in the Louisiana Champions Day Ladies S. and opened her five-year-old account with a victory in the Louisiana Premier Night Distaff S. Luis Quinonez retains the mount.

Multiple Grade 3 winner JUST JENDA (Menifee) brings winning experience over the track in her seasonal bow in the Azeri. A three-length heroine of last year's Honeybee S. (G3), the chestnut miss would go on to be third in the Fantasy S. (G2) and second in the Eight Belles S. (G3). She also triumphed by a dominating 8 1/4 lengths in the Serena's Song S. at Monmouth Park before adding the Monmouth Oaks (G3) to her resume in mid-August.

Off since a fifth-place finish in the Raven Run S. (G2) in October, Just Jenda has been a handful for owner/trainer Cindy Jones. Her husband and assistant, Larry Jones, gallops Just Jenda.

"She was tough on Larry yesterday," Cindy Jones said of Just Jenda, who worked five-eighths :59 1/5 on Monday with jockey Terry Thompson in the irons. "It was an easy work. She ate up every crumb that night, plus everything she would beg.

"When we took her back, it was hard for Larry to hold her on the ground. She was tough. She's bigger and stronger this year, but I think the mile is still her best distance."


 


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