Gone Astray, Phipps Stables’ late-blooming 4-year-old, will make his season debut March 6 in the $150,000 Razorback Handicap (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park and face a good field that includes 8-year-old Jonesboro, who won the 1 1/16-mile event back in 2008.
A winner of just two of 10 starts midway through his sophomore season, Gone Astray recorded consecutive victories in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) and Ohio Derby (gr. II) for trainer Shug McGaughey in the fall. The homebred son of Dixie Union ended his 2009 campaign with a third-place finish in Aqueduct’s Discovery Handicap (gr. III). Eddie Castro, aboard for the two stakes wins, has the mount, and they will break from the outside post in a field of eight.
Gone Astray, who is out of the Mr. Prospector mare Illicit, makes his first start in Arkansas. He has trained up to the race at Payson Park in Florida.
This will be Jonesboro’s fourth appearance in the Razorback, having finished third in 2007, winning by 2 1/4 lengths in 2008, and flattening out to finish seventh a year ago. A veteran of 44 starts with 14 career victories and more than $1.4 million in earnings for Michael Langford, Jonesboro made his 2010 debut in the Feb. 6 Essex Handicap on the Oaklawn dirt, finishing fourth under Abel Castellano Jr. He will be replaced by Calvin Borel, who guided the Sefapiano horse to the 2008 triumph. Randy Morse trains the 10-time stakes winner.
Victorious in that Essex Handicap was William Stiritz’s Racing Bran, who romped by 4 1/4 lengths at odds of 11-1 under Christopher Emigh. The 5-year-old Awesome Again gelding rides a three-race win streak into the Razorback. The streak began Dec. 3 at Hawthorne Park, a race he was claimed out of for $30,000 by trainer Scott Baker. Overall, Racing Bran has won four of his last five starts. This will be his graded stakes debut.
Also coming out of the Essex are the second- and third-place finishers, Win Willy and Prom Shoes. Jer-Mar Stables’ Win Willy, 56-1 winner of the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) last season, won a one-mile optional claimer at Oaklawn in his 4-year-old debut Jan. 21 before his runner-up effort last out. Cliff Berry rides for Mac Robertson.
The Razorback is a preps for the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) on April 3.
Also on the March 6 program is the Razorback’s sister race, the $150,000 Azeri Stakes (gr. III) for fillies and mares at the same distance. Carrying top weight of 122 pounds is the ultra-consistent Superior Storm, who is 15-4-1 from 23 starts and has won four of her last five.
Owned by Jac Mac Stable’s and trained by Richard Jackson, Superior Storm won Delta Downs’ Premier Night Distaff in her 5-year-old debut last month, the third time she won on Premier Night. In her last start at Oaklawn, the Stormy Atlantic filly finished runner-up to Seventh Street in the grade I Apple Blossom Handicap in 2009. Luis Quinonez has the mount on the dark bay mare, who is less than $50,000 shy of $1 million in earnings.
Also with a solid chance is Winchell Thoroughbreds’ 4-year-old War Echo, winner of last year's Silverbulletday (gr. III) and third in her 2010 debut last month in a Fair Grounds stakes. The Tapit filly is trained by Steve Asmussen.
$150,000 Razorback Handicap (gr. III, Race 7, 4:03 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Prom Shoes (KY), L S Quinonez, 115, W H Fires
2. Spotsgone (KY), J K Court, 113, W H Fires
3. Jonesboro (KY), C H Borel, 117, R L Morse
4. Win Willy (KY), M C Berry, 116, M Robertson
5. Acting Zippy (FL), T J Thompson, 117, W D Bennett
6. Mad Flatter (FL), S Bridgmohan, 112, J D Thornbury
7. Racing Bran (IL), C A Emigh, 116, S Becker
8. Gone Astray (KY), E Castro, 119, C R McGaughey III
$150,000 Azeri Stakes (gr. III, Race 9, 5:02 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Freedom Star (KY), C H Borel, 115, B Baffert
2. French Kiss (KY), J M Johnson, 115, G G Hartlage
3. Spirit Seeker (KY), E Castro, 113, J Hollendorfer
4. War Echo (KY), S Bridgmohan, 119, S M Asmussen
5. Superior Storm (LA), S Quinonez, 122, R D Jackson
6. Just Jenda (KY), T J Thompson, 115, C Jones
7. Afleet Deceit (KY), C A Emigh, 115, S Becker
8. Taptam (TX), I Ocampo, 117, W B Calhoun
9. Euphony (KY), M C Berry, 115, D K Von Hemel