(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.