07/12/2007 12:00AM

Poker cast brings high Beyers


ELMONT, N.Y. - It's only a Grade 3 stakes with a purse of $100,000, but some fast horses have won the Poker Handicap in recent years, including the two fastest milers in history based on raw final time. Elusive Quality won the 1998 Poker in a world-record 1:31.63, a mark that stood for seven years until Mr. Light lowered it to 1:31.41 at Gulfstream Park a few months before winning the 2005 Poker.

Perhaps there is no one with that kind of scintillating speed in the Poker's 23rd running on Saturday, but Art Master, Classic Campaign, Host, Gimme Credit, and Jet Propulsion all have produced triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in one of their last two starts on U.S. turf, and several others have come close.

Carnera's most recent start at a mile was an overnight stakes win at Saratoga last summer with a 99 Beyer. Electric Light has put up figures of 98-98-99 in three runner-up finishes this season, including a neck loss to the multiple graded stakes winner Remarkable News. And Woodlander received a 96 for his 12-1 upset of the Grade 3 Fort Marcy at Aqueduct first time out this year.

Art Master, a stablemate and older half-brother of recent Vagrancy winner Indian Flare, was a dual Group 3 winner in France earlier in his career, but lost four consecutive stakes starts on two continents as the favorite last year. Among the losses was a third-place finish in the Kelso Handicap in his U.S. debut for trainer Bobby Frankel. A lightly raced 6-year-old with just nine starts, Art Master returns to the turf after running second behind the talented Harlington on the main track first time out this year.

Host won the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile for trainer Todd Pletcher in 2005. He failed to fire in the Dubai Sheema Classic in late March, but rebounded to win the Elkwood at Monmouth Park in his return from a layoff. He can surpass the $1 million mark in earnings with a victory on Saturday.

The New York-bred Gimme Credit, in his second start back from a layoff, won on the Widener turf in eye-catching style, unleashing a strong late run to win the seven-furlong Notoriety Stakes in 1:20.71 for trainer Tim Hills, and he comes right on the same course.

"It was sort of a broken-field run," said Hills. "He picked his way through traffic, and once [Cornelio Velasquez] got him outside, he took off. Gearing him up off the layoff, the Poker was the race we were pointing for."