01/20/2009 12:00AM

Artiste Royal wins San Marcos

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ARCADIA, Calif.-Six months ago, Artiste Royal was battling a splint bone injury in the weeks following his win in the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Handicap at Hollywood Park. Owners Dave and Jill Heerensperger and trainer Neil Drysdale considered retiring the horse to stud, but no deals could be reached on the worldwide market.

Artiste Royal recovered from his injury, and went back into training. Monday at Santa Anita, he further enhanced his status as a leading turf horse in California by winning his third graded stakes in the last 18 months in the $150,000 San Marcos Stakes.

The San Marcos was Artiste Royal s first start since a troubled 11th in the $2.5 million Hong Kong Cup in Hong Kong last month. Drysdale said Monday that Artiste Royal could be considered for stakes in Hong Kong or at Fair Grouns in coming months.

Artiste Royal ($7.80) won the Grade 2 San Marcos by a nose over Medici Code. Ridden by Garrett Gomez, Artiste Royal rallied from last of 10 on the final turn to lead in the final stride, running 1 1/4 miles in 1:59.16.

"I let him settle in and he showed me the way," Gomez said.

Three horses led in the final sixteenth. Ferneley, who finished third, was caught by Medici Code with 50 yards remaining. Artiste Royal was seventh with a furlong remaining, but caught the eye with a furious rally.

"I didn t expect him to be that far back," Drysdale said.

Artiste Royal, 8, has own 7 of 28 starts and $871,790. He won the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch Stakes here in October 2007.

* Congor Bay earned a start in the $150,000 San Vicente Stakes on Feb. 16 by winning his first stakes in the $78,750 San Pedro Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters.

The start nearly did not happen. Trainer Mark Casse said jockey Patrick Husbands s opinion of a recent workout swayed his decision to run Congor Bay. The San Pedro was Husbands and Casse s first stakes win at Santa Anita.

"Patrick said the horse was ready to run," Casse said.

Casse admitted Congor Bay was lucky to win. Ventana, the 5-2 second choice in the betting, had a rough trip after being forced to steady on the turn and racing in traffic in the stretch. Ventana finished third, two lengths behind Congor Bay and 1 1/2 lengths behind runner-up Point Attended.

Owned by Eugene Melynk, Congor Bay has won 3 of 5 starts and $103,348.