Art Master Makes U.S. Debut in Kelso BC

(from Belmont Park report)
Juddmonte Farms' Art Master makes his first American start for trainer Bobby Frankel in Saturday's $250,000 Kelso Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Belmont Park turf.

The 5-year-old Royal Academy horse joined Frankel's barn early this summer after running the first six races of his career in France for trainer Andre Fabre.

Belmont's Kelso, always a key prep for the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT), is at eight furlongs on the Widener Turf Course. It kicks off the $400,000 guaranteed NTRA Pick 4 at 4:15 p.m. Eastern. The wager will continue at 4:42 p.m. with the Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II) from Turfway Park; and then conclude with two grade 1 offerings from the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meet -- the Yellow Ribbon at 5:10 p.m. and the Clement Hirsch Turf Championship at 5:40 p.m.

ESPN will televise these races live during its two-hour "Emirates Airline Countdown to the Breeders' Cup" broadcast that begins at 4 p.m. Eastern.

It appears that Art Master may have the best chance of defeating Godolphin's Ashkal Way in the Kelso.

Art Master did not debut until his 3-year-old season when he went a perfect 3-for-3 in France. Because of physical setbacks, most notably a cracked pastern, he was only able to make one start at 4, winning a group III at Longchamp in May. Art Master did not return to the races until last April when he finished second in a group III before his final French start, an eighth-place effort in the Prix du Muguet (Fr-II).

"When he first got here, he couldn't breeze a half-mile in better than :52," Frankel said. "It looks like he's fit now. If anything, he had been working too fast lately, but he went five furlongs in 1:02 2/5 on the turf Sunday, so that was good."

Frankel said there are no specific goals for Art Master past Saturday's Kelso.

"They just sent him over because he ran bad last time out," said Frankel. "All you can do is go off the form he's shown until he runs here. This race isn't all that tough."

Edgar Prado will ride Art Master in the Kelso at 117 pounds.

The horse to beat in the Kelso is Ashkal Way, a 4-year-old gelding who has won four of five American starts this year, including the Bernard Baruch (gr. IIT) on Travers Day. His connections opted to pass last weekend's nine-furlong $200,000 John D. Schapiro Memorial Breeders' Cup at Laurel for the Kelso.

"The Kelso didn't come up quite as tough as I thought it would initially," said Rick Mettee, New York-based assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "He doesn't have to ship for this race and he's won his other two races here.

"This race will definitely give us a better idea of what his next race should be," Mettee said.

Ashkal Way's only defeat in this country came in the Fourstardave (gr. IIT) at Saratoga when he checked in second behind Remarkable News.

Mike Luzzi, who finished second on Ashkal Way in the Fourstardave, will be back aboard for the Kelso.

The Horizon Stable's Meteor Storm will be making his first start since December when he won Calder's W.L. McKnight (gr. IIIT) at 12 furlongs. The Kelso distance of one mile may be a little short for him, but this should serve as a good starting point for the 7-year-old.

"I'm not expecting him to win at a mile," trainer Wally Dollase said. "This race should help him stretch out to a mile and three-eighths and longer."

$250,000 Kelso Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 7, 4:15 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 Mile (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Drum Major (KY), 116, Cornelio H. Velasquez
2. Art Master (KY), 117, Edgar S. Prado
3. Ashkal Way (IRE), 118, Michael J. Luzzi
4. Baron Von Tap (KY), 112, Channing Hill
5. Meteor Storm (GB), 118, Javier Castellano
6. Free Thinking (KY), 115, Jose A. Santos
7. Old Forester (KY), 115, Jose L. Espinoza
8. Friendly Island (NY), 114, Fernando Jara