02/26/2008 1:00AM

Artiste Royale cuts back for Kilroe

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ARCADIA, Calif. - The Grade 1 winner Artiste Royale will try something new in Saturday's $300,000 Frank Kilroe Mile on turf at Santa Anita by running the shortest distance of his career.

In 21 races, the 7-year-old Artiste Royale has run at distances ranging from 1 1/16 miles to 1 1/2 miles in France, the United States, and Japan.

"Hopefully, he'll run well at a mile," trainer Neil Drysdale said. "Provided he runs well at a mile, that will improve his value as a stallion."

Owned by David and Jill Heerensperger, Artiste Royale has won five times and earned $471,257. He made just three starts last year, highlighted by a win in the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch Turf Championship at 1 1/4 miles at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting in October.

Drysdale considers that to be Artiste Royale's best performance in a career that includes two stakes wins in France in 2004 and 2005, and placings in six stakes in the U.S. in 2006. During the 2006 season, Artiste Royale was trained by Laura de Seroux, who has since retired.

The Grade 1 Kilroe will be Artiste Royale's first start since an eighth-place finish in the $4.3 million Japan Cup at Tokyo Racecourse on Nov. 25. In that 1 1/2-mile race, Artiste Royale finished 5 1/2 lengths behind the Japanese star Admire Moon.

"The Japan Cup, I would probably just throw it out," Drysdale said.

In recent weeks, Artiste Royale has worked steadily on the main track at Hollywood Park, with an occasional turf workout at Santa Anita.

"He's strong and he's doing everything very easily," Drysdale said.

Rafael Bejarano, currently second in the jockey standings, will ride Artiste Royale for the first time in the Kilroe Mile.

"He's a patient rider, and he's riding very well at present," Drysdale said of Bejarano.

Artiste Royale will be the 118-pound starting highweight in the Kilroe. Daytona, who was assigned 120 pounds, is expected to instead run in the $500,000 Mervin Muniz Handicap at Fair Grounds on March 8.

Other probable starters for the Grade 1 Kilroe are Out of Control, Storm Military, War Monger, Mr Napper Tandy, and Ever a Friend.

Two options for Spring House in Dubai

Spring House, the winner of last Saturday's Grade 2 San Luis Obispo Handicap, is bound for Dubai, but it is not clear whether he will start on turf or dirt.

In the winner's circle following the race, trainer Julio Canani indicated that Spring House could start in the $5 million Sheema Classic at 1 1/2 miles on turf or the $6 million Dubai World Cup at 1 1/4 miles on the main track in the Middle East on March 29. Canani said he hoped to finalize plans this week after talking with Dubai racing officials.

Canani believes the 6-year-old horse has had good spacing between his races leading up to the potential Dubai trip.

"I like to space their races a little bit and I'm glad I passed the San Marcos" on Jan. 19, Canani said. "I don't have too many good horses, and this is a nice horse."

Owned by R.D. Hubbard, Spring House has won 6 of 30 starts and $544,284. If he starts in the Sheema Classic, Spring House would face a field expected to include Better Talk Now, the winner of the 2004 Breeders' Cup Turf. The top contender for the World Cup is Curlin, the reigning Horse of the Year.

Victory Pete on fence for Sham

Victory Pete will be a longshot in Saturday's $200,000 Sham Stakes for 3-year-olds, but his participation could greatly affect the race.

Victory Pete is a pacesetter, and with a small field expected for the Sham, he could have a major role in how the Grade 3 race at 1 1/8 miles unfolds.

Trained by Alexis Barba for Peter Johnson, Victory Pete is also being considered for the El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows on March 8.

"I want to pick the easiest spot," Barba said. "I'm on the fence to see how this unfolds."

Similar to many owners and trainers with promising 3-year-olds, Barba has aspirations that Victory Pete can be a Kentucky Derby contender. Victory Pete, 1 for 5 lifetime, was third in the California Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Jan. 27, setting the pace before fading to lose by a length.

The Sham would test Victory Pete against two of the top 3-year-olds in Southern California - Colonel John and El Gato Malo - and provides an opportunity to collect graded-stakes earnings that determine the Kentucky Derby field.

Colonel John was second in the CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park in December. El Gato Malo won the San Rafael Stakes in January.

"I guess we're sorting of running out of time between the tests as far as making money in graded races, if you're having the dream" of the Triple Crown, Barba said.

Barba, 55, is seeking her first stakes win. She has trained a small stable since 2000, having previously been an assistant to Eddie Gregson. When Gregson died, Barba took over his stable.

Set Play gets extended vacation

Set Play, the winner of the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante last September, has been turned out for at least 45 days after a series of disappointing performances, trainer Peter Miller said.

Set Play has lost five stakes since the Del Mar Debutante, including a third in the Miesque Stakes at Hollywood Park in November. She finished fourth in the La Habra Stakes on Feb. 2 in her most recent start. Owned by Gerson Racing and Charleville Stables, Set Play has won 2 of 9 starts and $262,251.

"We're giving her 45 to 60 days off," Miller said. "We'll have her back for the summer."

Miller said that half of the breeding rights to Set Play have been acquired by Three Chimneys Farm of Midway, Ky., but that the transaction would not affect plans for her racing career.

LaCroix fined for excess clenbuterol

Trainer David LaCroix has been fined $3,000 after one of his starters at Hollywood Park tested in excess of the permitted level of clenbuterol.

The penalty was part of a stipulated agreement between LaCroix and the California Horse Racing Board.

The excessive level of clenbuterol was found in a postrace urine and blood test taken from Happyhour Atthebrig, the second-place finisher in the fourth race on Dec. 1, 2007.

Clenbuterol is a bronchial dilator used to aid horses with breathing problems. It is allowed to appear in postrace tests at minute levels.