Updated on 09/15/2011 12:28PM

Astra romps in Beverly Hills


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Between plane trips to and from Japan on Sunday, Kent Desormeaux flew around the Hollywood Park turf course, guiding Astra to an impressive four-length win in the $200,000 Beverly Hills Handicap at Hollywood Park.

Desormeaux, who this week ends a successful two-month riding stay in Japan, landed in California before noon and left at 8 p.m. to return for a stakes on Tuesday. He resumes riding in California on Friday.

Astra's performance made Sunday's quick trip worthwhile.

Sent off at 4-5 in a field of five fillies and mares, Astra had a perfect trip in what was arguably the best performance of her 10-race career.

Trained by Simon Bray for the Allen Paulson Living Trust, Astra ($3.80) finished 1 1/4 miles on turf in 1:59.61, easily beating Happyanunoit, the defending champion of the Beverly Hills.

"She's a helluva homecoming," Desormeaux said.

Desormeaux had Astra in third-place early, tracking Happyanunoit and Polaire through fractions of 25.95 and 49.78 seconds. On the backstretch, Kalypso Katie joined those two on the lead, leaving Astra alone in fourth.

"I was delighted with her trip," Bray said. "I was afraid she'd get bottled up on the backside, but when Kalypso Katie went and didn't sit with us I was happy."

Happyanunoit and Kalypso Katie pulled clear of Polaire on the final turn, but were quickly caught by Astra, who rallied wide. Astra took the lead past the eighth pole and won easily.

"Her turn of foot is awesome," Desormeaux said.

Happyanunoit, who saved ground throughout, finished 3 1/2 lengths in front of Kalypso Katie, who was followed by Polaire and Jig.

"She'll get them at Del Mar," said Happyanunoit's trainer Bobby Frankel, referring to the Grade 1 Ramona Handicap on July 21. "They ganged up on her today."

Astra has won eight races, five stakes and earned $620,424. A 5-year-old, Astra is unbeaten in two starts this year, having won the Grade 2 Santa Barbara Handicap at Santa Anita on April 14 before Desormeaux left for Japan.

"She wants to get it all done right away, but she's getting better every time I ride her," Desormeaux said. "I said I'd go halfway around the world and back to ride this mare and she was worth it."