10/03/2009 12:00AM

Gone Astray pulls away in Ohio Derby

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Gone Astray won his second straight derby, pulling away Saturday as the heavy favorite in the 75th running of the , the annual showcase event at Thistledown in North Randall, Ohio.

With Eddie Castro riding for the Phipps Stable and trainer Shug McGaughey, Gone Astray drew clear in the final furlong to prevail by 2 1/4 lengths over War Fighter, who set the pace among the seven 3-year-olds contesting the 1 1/8-mile race. The winner returned $2.80 after finishing in 1:50.56 over a fast track.

Gone Astray, a Phipps homebred colt by Dixie Union, had captured the Sept. 7 Pennsylvania Derby by 9 1/4 lengths in his previous start. This one didn't come quite as easily, as he labored to run down War Fighter, a 12-1 shot, in the upper stretch before ultimately proving superior.

McGaughey said before the Ohio Derby that he has no intentions of racing Gone Astray in any of the Nov. 6-7 Breeders' Cup and will opt instead for the Nov. 21 Discovery Handicap at Aqueduct next. Longtime assistant trainer Buzz Tenney was in from New York to saddle the winner.

"Eddie gave him a great ride," said Tenney. "He waited and waited with him, and that's the way this horse likes to run. It all worked out."

War Fighter, with Huber Villa-Gomez aboard, set fractions of 23.78 seconds, 48.76, and 1:13.06, and had turned back all chasers except Gone Astray by the time he passed the quarter pole. He wound up 7 3/4 lengths before Ice Road, with Join in the Dance, the 5-2 second choice who was extremely rank through the early going, another 6 1/4 lengths back in fourth. Perfect Start, Fonda Ronda Won, and Petch completed the order.

A field of 13 had been entered, but six horses were scratched early, leaving the much smaller field.