06/05/2009 12:00AM

Artiste Royal just needs bit of luck at Hollywood


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Trainer Neil Drysdale was not being defensive when he listed the reasons Artiste Royal lost his last two starts in advance of Saturday's $300,000 Charles Whittingham Handicap at Hollywood Park.

After starting 2009 with a nose victory in the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes at Santa Anita in January, Artiste Royal gave owners David and Jill Heerensperger and Drysdale two frustrating performances at Santa Anita in March.

There was the fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile on March 7 when Artiste Royal was stuck in traffic through the stretch, eventually losing by two lengths.

"He was boxed in through the lane," Drysdale said.

Two weeks later, in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap, Artiste Royal had a troubled start, chased eventual winner Midships through a slow pace, and finished a well-beaten third.

"He stumbled and missed the break," Drysdale said.

The horse's record, Drysdale said, "might look spotty but it isn't. He's been unlucky in a few of his races."

A win in the Whittingham would make those races easy to forget.

Artiste Royal is the defending champion of the Whittingham, which is run over 1 1/4 miles on turf. The distance is perfect for Artiste Royal. He won the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch Turf Championship over 1 1/4 miles on turf at Santa Anita in 2007, the same distance as the San Marcos.

What Artiste Royal needs is a pace to chase, and such a scenario could develop on Saturday. Liquidity, who was 14th in the 2007 Kentucky Derby and an outsider in the Whittingham, may set the pace, pursued by Midships, who followed the San Luis Rey victory with a front-running win in the San Juan Capistrano Handicap over 1 3/4 miles on turf on April 19.

That would help Artiste Royal, along with fellow closers Globetrotter, the two-time stakes winner Madeo, and Union Avenue, who is seeking his first stakes win in three years.

Madeo carries high weight of 119 pounds, one more than Artiste Royal and Midships.

Trained by John Shirreffs, Madeo won the Grade 3 Inglewood Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on turf here in April. He seeks the longest win of his career in the Whittingham. In his only other attempt at the distance, Madeo finished a troubled eighth, beaten 3 3/4 lengths in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby last November. Midships was third in that field in his U.S. debut.

Shirreffs said he thinks that Madeo is in top form, having won 2 of 3 starts since being pulled up in the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes at Santa Anita in January when he took an odd step on the backstretch.

Since then, Madeo has won an allowance, finished a fast-closing third in the Grade 2 Arcadia Handicap, and won the Inglewood.

"His last race was very good," Shirreffs said. "He's really learned to be placed in races. Before he was running on top of horses' heels."

The distance should be no issue for Globetrotter. Trained by John Sadler, Globetrotter, a stakes winner in Canada in 2007, won an allowance race over 1 1/8 miles on turf at Santa Anita in April. It was his second start for Sadler.

"I see him behind the speed and ahead of the deep closers," Sadler said. "He's run two good, strong races and he trains like a good horse."