12/07/2007 12:00AM

Wood Art faces next challenge

EmailALBANY, Calif. - Is Wood Art ready to step up to stakes company?

That question will come into clearer focus Sunday when the 3-year-old filly who has won two straight meets eight rivals in a $50,000 optional claimer at Golden Gate Fields.

"She's just a good filly," trainer Greg James said. "We've never had any problems with her."

Wood Art has won two straight first-level allowance races, taking advantage of her Cal-bred status to win a statebred allowance at Fairplex on Sept. 16 and then winning an open allowance here on the new Tapeta surface on Nov. 17.

A daughter of Avenue of Flags, Wood Art ran a strong race here as she scored a $39 upset in her last start following a two-month freshener.

Wood Art may be a horse for the course. She seems to thrive on synthetic surfaces, although she has also won on conventional dirt tracks.

"She likes this track," James said. "She also ran well at Del Mar off a layoff."

Wood Art took the lead in the lane before finishing second after eight months on the sidelines in her 3-year-old debut at Del Mar on Aug. 11, handling a surface that many others had problems with.

"She's easy to train," said James, who has just galloped her since her Nov. 17 win. "Even when she was young, she worked good. She's really smart and does everything right."

With 3 wins, 2 seconds, and 2 thirds in 9 starts, Wood Art could be ready for bigger and better things.

"If she wins this, we'd look for a Cal-bred stakes, but we've got to get through this race and see what we have," James said.

Wood Art, owned by longtime California breeders Robert and Betty Irvin, is content to sit a bit early and fire late. She meets some talented older runners here, including stakes-placed Denaesalildevil, as well as Fargo's Legacy; Victory Script, who ran off seven straight wins at Emerald Downs to start the year; Tucker's Tune; and Soft Lite.

Her fellow 3-year-olds include a pair of black-type runners from the Jerry Hollendorfer barn: stakes-winning Glorification and stakes-place Fancy and Free. Running Apache, also stakes-placed, comes into the race off a first-level allowance victory.

There should be plenty of speed to set things up for Wood Art. Both Glorification and Fancy and Free have good early speed, as does Denaesalildevil. Victory Script, Fargo's Legacy, and Tucker's Tune are all capable of sitting close.