OZONE PARK, N.Y. -- Gone Astray will seek his third straight stakes win in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Discovery Handicap for 3-year-olds at Aqueduct. In his last two starts, Gone Astray has won the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby and the $150,000 Ohio Derby.
Gone Astray faces five rivals in the 1 1/8-mile Discovery, including Haynesfield, a pacesetting winner against older New York-breds in the Empire Classic, and Bad Action, a former claimer for trainer Gary Contessa who has developed into a graded stakes winner.
Gone Astray's sharp form coupled with the fact he is dropping a level following a pair of Grade 2 victories, will make him a strong favorite.
The turning point for Gone Astray, a Phipps Stable homebred, came at Monmouth Park in June, when he missed by a head in the slop to Our Edge in the Coronado's Quest Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.
"I really thought he was a come-from-behind sprinter," trainer Shug McGaughey said. "I thought I'd try an easier spot at Monmouth around two turns and I thought he ran great that day. [Nick] Zito's horse beat us; he had the trip, and we didn't."
From there, it was another near miss in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga before Gone Astray broke out with a 9 1/4-length win in the Pennsylvania Derby on Labor Day followed by a 2 1/4-length win in the Ohio Derby on Oct. 3.
"After the Pennsylvania Derby, I worried I was running him back a little quick, but now he's had his time, he's training good," McGaughey said. "I can't give any excuse."
Gone Astray, who posted triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in his last three races, will again be ridden by Eddie Castro.
For true grit, it's hard to top Bad Action, who heads to the post for the 17th time this year. Claimed by Contessa from a maiden race for $35,000 just more than a year ago, Bad Action is coming off his best effort yet: an 11-1 upset in the Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes at the Meadowlands.
"If you claim enough horses, you eventually get one that turns out to be a good one," Contessa said. "He's a big horse who is big in size and big in attitude. He's just developed nicely."
The rigorous campaign seems to agree with the gelding.
"Racing seems to make him happier than sitting in a stall," Contessa said. "I've accommodated him as far as that goes."