Late-running Gone Astray blasted home to win the $245,000 Salvator Mile Stakes (gr. III) impressively over four rivals at odds of 7-1 at Monmouth Park July 3 (VIDEO).
The victory in the Salvator Mile, which followed the Betfair/TVG United Nations Stakes (gr. IT) on the Monmouth program, earned the Phipps Stable homebred a spot in the Breeders' Cup Dirt MIle (gr. I) Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs.
With Cornelio Velasquez aboard, Gone Astray posted a five-length win over Duke of Mischief in a slow final time of 1:38.02 on a fast main track. You and I Forever finished a neck behind the runner-up in third. Two runners from the Todd Pletcher barn, Le Grand Cru and 13-10 choice Munnings , brought up the rear in a small field that included four grade II winners.
Gone Astray, a 4-year-old son of Dixie Union out of the Mr. Prospector mare Illicit, returned to the winner's circle for the first time since taking the Ohio Derby (gr. II) by 2 1/4 lengths at Thistledown Oct. 3. He won the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) by 9 1/4 lengths prior to the Ohio Derby. With his victory in the Salvator Mile worth $150,000, Gone Astray went over $1 million in career earnings.
“Our horse is usually near the back before he comes running," said Buzz Tenney, assistant to winning trainer Shug McGaughey. "Cornelio had a lot of horse under him.
"We’ll keep the Breeders’ Cup in the back of our mind. After this, I’m sure Shug will find something for him going two turns at Saratoga.”
Gone Astray moved to the rail early as Le Grand Cru led Munnings, on the inside, and You and I Forever, three wide on the outside for the opening half-mile. Fractions werer extremely soft, :25.09 and :50.11. Approaching the quarter pole, both Le Grand Cru and Munnings dropped back, leaving You and I Forever, ridden by Jose Lezcano, a length in front of third choice Duke of Mischief, with Eibar Coa aboard. Gone Astray, while last into the final turn, was never far back. He was eased out by Velasquz and he gained on the first two while three wide into the stretch.
In a matter of a few strides, Gone Astray gained the lead in upper stretch. He led by 1 1/2 lengths over Duke of Mischief at the furlong pole and drew off smartly under a strong hand ride.
“The pace was so slow but I was never worried," Velasquez said. "On the far turn, (Le Grand Cru and Munnings) both dropped out of it so I had to swing my horse to the outside. He had so much run I never had a question.”
Gone Astray, coming off a third-place finish behind Cool Coal Man and Sir Whimsey in Monmouth's Skip Away Stakes June 12, improved his career record to 5-4-4 in 17 starts. He won for the first time in four races in 2010. The Kentucky-bred dark bay or brown colt has banked $1,065,262.
Sent off as the fourth choice, Gone Astray carried 117 pounds and paid $16.20, $6, and $3.80 while topping a $70.20 exacta. Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) winner Duke of Mischief, the 123-pound high weight, returned $4.40 and $3.60. You and I Forever was $4.20 to show.
Jockey Garrett Gomez said he had no excuse for Munnings, who was not urged in the stretch while beaten by more than 20 lengths.
“He just had no pop," Gomez said. "I sat right off Todd’s other horse (Le Grand Cru) along the inside, and we had plenty of room. When I asked him to give me a little more (on the turn), he didn’t have anything left. Through the lane he just kind of bounced up and down, but didn’t have any run.”