04/07/2007 12:00AM

Change of style works for Istan in Artax


Trainer Bill Mott was in frigid Kentucky on Saturday but he remained red-hot in sunny Florida, winning a pair of stakes races within a 30-second span with Go Between at Tampa Bay Downs and Istan in the $75,000 Artax Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

Istan showed surprising early speed to take command of the 7 1/2-furlong Artax right from the outset and never looked back. It was the first time the 5-year-old son of Gone West had even been close to the lead, let alone on it, in his seven U.S. starts, which include a come-from-behind win in Tampa's Challenger Stakes four weeks earlier.

With jockey Manoel Cruz aboard, Istan set fractions of 23.24 seconds, 45.83, and 1:09.60 over the fast, speed-favoring course, opened a comfortable advantage near midstretch, and easily held off Paradise Dancer to post a 2 1/2-length decision. B. B. Best was another head back in third.

Park Avenue Ball, the 1-2 favorite coming off a second-place effort behind the undefeated Half Ours in the Grade 2 Richter Scale Handicap, was hung wide throughout and came up empty leaving the turn, finishing a well-beaten fourth in a field of six.

Istan returned $9.40 after completing the distance in 1:28.08.

"Bill thought that B. B. Best would be the speed, but told the rider that if things develop that you end up with an easy lead, just go on, which he did," said Mott's Gulfstream assistant, Ken McCarthy.