07/19/2009 12:00AM

Black Astor sets the pace and hangs on

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Black Astor switched from being a lure to a fighter in Sunday's $142,000 Sunset Handicap at Hollywood Park.

After leading by as many as 10 lengths after the first half-mile, and appearing to be a little more than a pacesetter for the trailing horses, Black Astor fought off the challenges of two rivals to win the Grade 2 race at 1 1/2 miles on turf, posting an upset in a small field.

Black Astor ($14.40) was the second-longest shot in the field and won by two lengths over 1-2 favorite Spring House, who was trying to win his third stakes of 2009.

The Sunset Handicap was Black Astor's first stakes win. Trained by Lisa Lewis, Black Astor was timed in 2:27.10. Ridden by Joe Talamo, Black Astor set early fractions of 25.25 and 49.84 seconds.

Spring House, third for the first mile, was within a length of Black Astor after a mile but could not catch the winner. Porfido finished third, 3 1/4 lengths in front of Obrigado in the four-horse field.

Black Astor made his second start of 2009 in the Sunset Handicap, having finished fifth in the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes at Santa Anita in January. Lewis said her biggest concern was whether Black Astor could handle the longest race of his career.

"It was just a matter of whether he could get the distance," she said. "He just needed freshening. I told the owners I wanted to give him some time."

Black Astor, a 5-year-old gelding by Black Minnaloushe, has won 4 of 16 starts and $229,624. Lewis said Black Astor will be pointed for the $250,000 Del Mar Handicap at 1 3/8 miles on turf on Aug. 30.