03/10/2007 1:00AM

Istan holds on


Istan withstood a determined bid from 20-1 Anglers Reef through the stretch to get up by a head and win the $65,000 Challenger Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

Under Jose Ferrer, Istan covered 1 1/16 miles over a fast racing strip in 1:43.64 to post his second win for trainer Bill Mott since coming to the United States. He returned $8.40 as the second choice in the field of eight older runners.

Anglers Reef, trying stakes company for the first time after being claimed earlier in the meeting for $50,000, was a solid second, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of early pacesetter Cherokee Prince. Hemingway's Key finished last as the 6-5 favorite.

Istan and Ferrer were content to sit just off the early pace as Cherokee Prince cut out fractions of 46.60 seconds and 1:10.67 before being joined on the outside by Gottcha Gold after five furlongs.

Moving into the stretch, Istan ranged up three wide to gain the lead, but Anglers Reef was right at his flank with Luis Gonzalez and the pair battled through the final furlong as a team.