07/14/2007 12:00AM

Art Master draws off in Poker


ELMONT, N.Y. - Art Master stormed down the center of the course to win the Grade 3, $112,600 Poker Handicap on Saturday at Belmont Park.

Garrett Gomez guided the 6-year-old trained by Bobby Frankel to a 1 1/4-length victory over longshot Woodlander, with Host a late-running third.

The time for one mile on the firm turf course was 1:33.21.

The Poker was Art Master's ($8.30) fourth start in the United States and marked his first U.S. stakes victory. Since joining the Frankel barn last year after starting his career in Europe, Art Master was third in the Grade 2 Kelso Breeders' Cup Handicap at Belmont and seventh in the Grade 3 River City Handicap at Churchill Downs.

In his lone start this season, Art Master finished second to the talented Harlington in a Belmont allowance race on the dirt in late May.

The switch back to the turf was the winning move as Art Master improved his career record to 5 for 10.

"I looked at the race and saw how versatile he is," said Gomez, aboard for the first time. "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."

Consecutive solid efforts on two surfaces give Frankel a variety of options going forward.

"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 assistant trainer Scott Hansen. "We're very happy with the win. He came wide off the turn, and he looked like he had a steady kick. The time was fast for him."

Woodlander found room on the inside to get second.

"He finished up real big today," said 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."