03/03/2010 1:00AM

Gone Astray returns in Razorback

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Gone Astray flew in Wednesday afternoon from Florida to start as the 119-pound highweight in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn. The 1 1/16-mile race will be his first start following a 3-year-old season in which he won the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby and the Grade 2 Ohio Derby.

The Razorback will share a card with the Grade 3, $150,000 Azeri for fillies and mares. The races are preps for the meet's richest offerings for older horses, the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap on April 3, and the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Invitational on April 9.

Gone Astray has not raced since Nov. 21, when he finished third as the favorite in the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap at Aqueduct.

"We wanted to give him a little time off, try to have a fresh horse for this year," said Shug McGaughey, who trains Gone Astray for Phipps Stable. "He's training well. I think he's done well over the last three and a half months."

McGaughey said the timing and distance of the Razorback made the race an appealing spot to start Gone Astray's campaign.

"I do think he's better around two turns, which is why I didn't want to run a mile here," he said from Gulfstream, where mile races are contested around one turn. "And a mile and an eighth off a layoff is a pretty grueling race.

"This is a good place to get him started back, and if he runs good, then we could possibly come back for the Oaklawn Handicap."

Eddie Castro has the mount on Gone Astray, who arrived in Little Rock, Ark., a little before 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

"He adapts well when he does ship," said McGaughey.

The horse traveled to Philadelphia Park last September and rolled by nine lengths in the Pennsylvania Derby. A month later, he headed to Thistledown for the Ohio Derby.

Bold Chieftain, winner of the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Classic, is the 120-pound highweight for the Razorback but will not go, said his trainer, Bill Morey Jr.

"We're not quite ready, but we're not ruling out the Oaklawn Handicap," he said.

Gone Astray's competition is expected to include Acting Zippy (117), Jonesboro (117), Racing Bran (116), Win Willy (116), and Prom Shoes (115). Aggie Engineer (113) is possible, trainer Paddy Gallagher said Wednesday.

The Azeri field will include Spirit Seeker, who was scheduled to arrive aboard a flight Thursday, said her trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer. He said Castro has the mount Saturday.