04/19/2012 11:54AM

Yonkers: Art Z takes nothing for granted in Levy Series


The connections of Art Z are taking no chances. Ranked third in the standings after four weeks of the George Morton Levy series, Art Z seems a virtual lock to qualify for the $455,000 final on April 28 at Yonkers Raceway.

“The way the points work in the series you get 25 for just showing up. I looked at the standings and thought that if one or two horses were lucky enough to win he might lose his spot in the final,” said trainer Jordan Rubin from his Gaitway Farms base.

So Art Z will race for the fifth straight week at Yonkers having captured two legs and finished second in another. This Saturday he drew post three in the seventh race, one of four $50,000 divisions of the Levy.

“I think he’s got a good shot to be first or second in that field,” said Rubin.

With $117,520 in earnings this year Art Z has proven a tremendous investment. Last year he was purchased privately from owner Bob McIntosh for $80,000.

“I have a friend who watches the races in Ontario intently,” recalled Rubin. “He saw this horse and we contacted Bob to buy him. He was only eligible to the New York Sire Stakes and at the time was a non-winners of 2.”

Art Z quickly rose to be more than a non-winners horse, capturing multiple legs of the New York Sire Stakes as a 3-year-old, but when it came to the $175,000 final things didn’t go quite as planned.

“We drew the rail but he had developed an abscess and was also a little sick. We did everything we could to get him to race but he was no good,” recalled Rubin.

Art Z was rested after that final and has come back a different horse at age four.

“Last year he was really bumpy on the turns. Not the best half-mile track horse because of it,” reflected the conditioner. “This year he’s really smoothed out on the half-miler.”

Indeed Art Z’s performances in the Levy have been a pleasant surprise for Rubin since just nominating to the series was something he needed to think long and hard before doing. The altered son of Artiscape is a much handier horse on the big tracks. He proved that in capturing the $78,400 final of the Four Leaf Clover in a career best 1:50 3/5 at New Meadowlands in March.

“We were starting next to Freddy Day Hanover and I talked it over with Dave (driver Miller) before the race. The plan was that if Freddy Day Hanover leaves we take back and if he doesn’t we go to the front,” said Rubin, a keen handicapper in his own right. “I think he would have won by five if he took off the gate,” he said, “it took a long time for him to find room inside and get through.”

At Yonkers he’s proven to have speed and courage. “He’s all heart,” said Rubin. Both Levy victories came from off the pace for driver Brett Miller, but the horse does have early speed and can sit close to the pace.

On Saturday he’ll meet a solid field that includes two-leg winners Fitz’s Z Tam and Sea Venture as well as three-leg winner Atochia returning from a week on the sidelines. Fortunately for Art Z he’s landed post three with Fitz’s Z Tam (post four), Atochia (post six) and Sea Venture (post 8) handicapped somewhat.

For Rubin there’s definitely an understanding of the Levy pecking order.

“You have Foiled Again and Real Nice and then the rest. I mean Foiled Again is an absolute beast. If those horses draw inside I can’t see anyone else finishing one-two,” he said.

Thus far in the series Art Z has been quite fortunate in the draws having landed the three-hole three times and post two on the other two occasions.

“Now if we draw inside and Foiled Again and Real Nice draw posts seven and eight, it could be interesting. The draw will be big,” concluded Rubin.

Real Nice, the Levy point leader, could have opted out of this week’s fifth leg but instead he’ll have his work cut out in the $50,000 eighth race division. He drew post two but will meet two-leg winner Strand Hanover (post one) and the rugged Blatantly Good (post six).

Flipper J drew the rail in the sixth race Levy division and will need a victory to have any chance at reaching the final.

Nob Hill High is the likely favorite to continue his consistent ways in the fifth race, first Levy leg of the evening. The Bruce Saunders trainee finished sharply last week and should assure himself a spot in the final.

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