06/07/2008 12:00AM

Artiste Royal gets another Grade 1


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The conditions of the $300,000 Charles Whittingham Handicap at Hollywood Park on Saturday were an ideal fit for Artiste Royal, and gave the 7-year-old his second Grade 1 win in the last year.

Artiste Royal ($8.40) outfinished Monzante and a game pacesetter in Lava Man to win the Whittingham by a neck. The victory was Artiste Royal's first of 2008, and first since the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch Turf Championship at Santa Anita last fall. The Whittingham and the Hirsch are run over 1 1/4 miles on turf.

"He's at his best at a mile and a quarter on turf," said his trainer, Neil Drysdale.

Ridden by David Flores, Artiste Royal was fifth early and closed ground on the turn and in early stretch. Artiste Royal trailed leader Mr. Wolverine by a length with a furlong remaining and took the lead in the last 100 yards. Artiste Royal was timed in 1:59.99.

Champs Elysees, the 4-5 favorite, was never a factor. He was last in the field of seven until early stretch and finished sixth, beaten 5 1/2 lengths.

Lava Man set an early pace of 24.72 and 48.05 seconds under Tyler Baze, leading by as many as seven lengths. Lava Man's lead diminished on the final turn, but he did not give up his advantage until early stretch. Even then, Lava Man fought to the finish, losing by a neck and a nose.

"Talk about game," Baze said. "He ran awesome."

Artiste Royal was third in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs last month over a good turf course that trainer Drysdale said he did not like.

Owned by David and Jill Heerensperger, Artiste Royal has won 6 of 25 starts and $773,990.