Art Master Aces Poker Handicap

Art Master Aces Poker Handicap
Photo: Coglianese Photos
Art Master, with jockey Garrett Gomez, wins the Poker Stakes, Saturday at Belmont Park.
Order This Photo

(from Belmont Park report)

Juddmonte Farm’s Art Master, returning to the turf for the first time in 2007, rallied under jockey Garrett Gomez to win the $112,600 Poker Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) at a mile on the Widener Turf Course at Belmont Park on Saturday afternoon by 1 1/4 lengths.

The 6-year-old Royal Academy horse arrived at trainer Bobby Frankel's stable at Belmont from France last fall. A two-time group III winner on grass, the bay had been off since a second on dirt on May 24, his only start this year.

Art Master was fresh and ready for the Poker, where he recorded the fifth win of his 10-race career and first North American graded stakes victory before a crowd of 7,193. He earned $67,560 and has now banked $254,767.

Florida invader Jet Propulsion was the hard-trying pacesetter, going in :23.30. :46.27 and 1:09.18. As he tired, Art Master, sixth with a quarter-mile to go, was just getting going.

“I looked at the race and saw how versatile he is,” said Gomez. “I wanted to be in behind the two speed horses. I got shuffled back, but it didn’t faze him.

"I was able to give him a breather and sit on him a bit. I cranked him up turning for home, and he went right on by.  I just wanted to get him going off the turn and give him some confidence so he would go on.”

Art Master drew away late and went on to win in 1:33.21 on the firm course, where the rail was out nine feet. Sent off as the second choice in the field of nine, he paid $8.30, $4.60, and $3.10.

“He seems to be able to run on both dirt and turf, but it seems that they are trying to make him a miler,” said Scott Hansen, Frankel's assistant. “We’re very happy with the win. He came wide off the turn, and he looked like he had a steady kick. Garrett said he could definitely go longer. The time was fast for him. I imagine they might want to keep him at a mile or a mile and a sixteenth. ”

Jockey Mike Luzzi found room on the rail with 17-1 longshot Woodlander, who was second by three-quarters of a length, returning $13.60 and $7.60.

“He finished up real big today,” said Woodlander’s trainer, Gary Contessa. “This horse has been doing real well for us. It’s nice to have a turf horse with his kind of kick.”

Favored Host (5-2), far back most of the way, rallied wide to get third, paying $2.80. The Chilean bred was followed by Jet Propulsion, Yate’s Black Cat, Classic Campaign, Gimme Credit, Leadwithyourchin, and Carnera.

Art Master carried 116 pounds, three less than than the top-weighted Host, who was coming off a win in the one-mile Elkwood at Monmouth Park.

Electric Light was scratched, as was main-track-only entrant War Dance.

(Chart, Equibase)

Most Popular Stories