09/07/2009 12:00AM

Gone Astray dominates Pennsylvania Derby


Shortly after Gone Astray's second-place finish behind Blame in an overnight stakes last month at Saratoga, trainer Shug McGaughey said "if the top ones come together for the Travers we'll look elsewhere because I don't think he's that kind."

Perhaps McGaughey, a Hall of Fame horseman, will have to reassess his opinion of Gone Astray, especially the way his steadily improving 3-year-old dominated Monday's at Philadelphia Park, drawing off with complete authority through the final furlong to an impressive 9 1/4-length victory over Join in the Dance.

The win was the third in 11 career starts for Gone Astray, a homebred son of Dixie Union who is owned by the Phipps Stable and was ridden to victory by Eddie Castro. Gone Astray completed 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:48.27 and paid $11.40.

As expected, Our Edge set the early pace with Join in the Dance in close pursuit. The pair continued in that order for six furlongs before Join in the Dance forged to a short advantage approaching the stretch. By that time, Gone Astray, who rated nicely in midpack, was in full flight, readily overtaking Join in the Dance in early stretch and then steadily extending his advantage thereafter.

Although no match for the winner, Join in the Dance was able to outlast California invader Kelly Leak by two lengths to finish second. Duke of Mischief stumbled and was knocked about after the start, raced very wide throughout, and checked home a well-beaten fourth as the 2-1 favorite in a field of eight 3-year-olds. West Virginia Derby winner Soul Warrior was scratched earlier in the day after developing a temperature, according to trainer Steve Asmussen.

"This horse has been getting better and better since I stretched him out around two turns a couple of starts back at Monmouth Park," said McGaughey. "In his last start, the Curlin, he got beat by a good horse, Blame, who slipped through along the rail while we got hung outside which probably made a three-quarter length difference. He'd been training well at Saratoga but this came as a bit of a surprise, as easily as he won today. I guess I'm going to have to take a look and see what I got before deciding where he'll run next."

* Chamberlain Bridge took advantage of a fast pace forged, in part, by his stablemate Mr. Nightlinger, rallying wide from midpack to a 1 1/2-length victory over Little Nick in the . Little Nick rallied from last and widest of all to nip the game but tiring Mr. Nightlinger by a nose for second.

Chamberlain Bridge, a son of War Chant, was ridden to victory by John Velazquez for trainer Bret Calhoun. He paid $5.40 as the 8-5 favorite along with entrymate Mr. Nightlinger after covering five furlongs in 57.14 seconds over a firm course.

The victory was the fourth this season, all stakes, for the well-traveled Chamberlain Bridge, who is owned by the Moore Management LLC.