Black Astor holds on to win the 2009 Sunset Handicap at Hollywood Park.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Black Astor holds on to win the 2009 Sunset Handicap at Hollywood Park.
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Black Astor Refuses to Fade in Sunset 'Cap

He gives trainer Lisa Lewis her first stakes win at Hollywood Park on closing day.

Black Astor, handed a 10-length lead with a mile to run in the closing-day $142,500 Sunset Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) at Hollywood Park, made it stand up over his three rivals July 19.

With Joe Talamo aboard, Black Astor posted his first stakes win by two lengths over 1-2 favorite Spring House, who tried to mount a threat in the lane but came up well short in the 1 1/2-mile turf event. The winning time was 2:27.10 on firm going.

Trained by Lisa Lewis for owners A Breed Apart and Stephen R. Humphrey, Black Astor was making his first start since finishing fifth in the San Marcos Stakes (gr. IIT) on the Santa Anita lawn six months ago.

As expected, Black Astor opened a big lead the first time around and was in complete command after posting quarter-mile fractions of :25.25, :49.84, and 1:115.25. Spring House, who would have gone over the $1-million mark in career earnings with a victory, and Porfido took closer order leaving the backstretch and into the final turn. But Black Astor responded to the challenge and inched away at the top of the lane. He kicked clear under urging while drifting in from midstretch, still managing to hold Spring House off in a game effort.

"When he went that slow first quarter I said, 'Man they're going to have trouble catching him.’ That's the first time he's relaxed like that on a loose rein," Talamo said. "I can't really take all the credit. He was pretty much the only speed in the race and was able to open up early without taking a lot out of him."

Spring House, with Alex Solis aboard, ran second by a half-length over Porfido and David Flores, with the French-bred Obrigado 3 1/4 lengths farther back in fourth.

"I really can't take anything away from the winner, but I had to move a little earlier than I wanted to," Solis said.

Black Astor, a 5-year-old gelding by Black Minnaloushe--Bagasse, by Sunshine Forever, won for the fourth time in 16 lifetime starts. The winning purse, $90,000, pushed his career earnings to $229,624. His last victory came nearly a year ago in an optional claiming allowance race on the Del Mar turf. CHO bred the winning bay in Kentucky.

“I thought that the horse is a marathon-type horse, but until they actually go the distance you don’t know," said Lewis after claiming her first stakes win at Hollywood Park. "I can’t say this was my plan, first race back to go a mile-and-one-half, so I was a little concerned about that. I thought he was training pretty good, but until they go a mile-and-one-half, you just don’t know."

She said Black Astor would be pointed to the 1 3/8-mile Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT), worth $250,000, Aug. 30.

Sent off as the third choice in the short field, Black Astor carried 114 pounds and paid $14.40 and $4. The multiple graded winner Spring House, the 121-pound highweight, returned $2.20. The $2 exacta was worth $26.80. There was no show wagering.