04/30/2008 12:00AM

Artiste Royale heads up Woodford

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The seemingly endless wait before Saturday's 6:04 p.m. post time for the Kentucky Derby should pass a little easier with the opportunity to watch and wager on five competitive undercard stakes headed by the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and Grade 1 Humana Distaff.

The Woodford Reserve and Humana Distaff will be preceded on Saturday's 12-race program at Churchill Downs by the Grade 2, $250,000 Churchill Downs Handicap, the Grade 3, $150,000 La Troienne, and the Grade 3, $150,000 Distaff Turf Mile.

California invader Artiste Royale tops a field of eight grass specialists in the $500,000 Turf Classic. Artiste Royale will be seeking his first victory since capturing the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch Stakes last fall at Santa Anita.

Artiste Royale will face a lineup that includes fellow Grade 1 winner Einstein, Thorn Song, Yate's Black Cat, Duveen, Out of Control, War Monger, and Golden Balls.

Einstein, Thorn Song, and Out of Control finished second, third, and fifth behind Breeders' Cup Mile winner Kip Deville three weeks earlier in Keeneland's Grade 1 Maker's Mark Mile.

Einstein checked home seventh over a yielding course as the 2-1 favorite in the 2007 Woodford Reserve, and trainer Helen Pitts is expecting her star to redeem himself on Saturday.

"He didn't get a great trip that day and still only got beat three lengths," said Pitts. "He's doing great, and his race in the Maker's Mark should set him up perfectly for this one."

Miraculous Miss and Miss Macy Sue, second and third behind Maryfield in the inaugural Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, will take on south Florida distaff sprint kingpin Sugar Swirl in the $300,000 Humana Distaff.

Miraculous Miss will be making her first start since finishing third against males in Laurel's Grade 1 De Francis Memorial Handicap to close out her outstanding 2007 season. The speedy Miss Macy Sue opened her 2008 campaign with an easy 11 3/4-length allowance win at Oaklawn Park.

Sugar Swirl, the 122-pound highweight under the allowance conditions of the seven-furlong Humana Distaff, dominated her division this winter at Gulfstream Park, where she won three graded stakes, including the Grade 2 Shirley Jones Handicap on March 29.

The strong Humana Distaff lineup also includes Grade 1 winners Intangaroo and Hystericalady, along with Change Up, Graeme Six, Windyindy, and Baroness Thatcher.

Wanderin Boy, idle since finishing a tiring fifth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, might launch his comeback in the Churchill Downs Handicap. Wanderin Boy also was entered for the 1 1/16-mile Alysheba on Friday.

Wanderin Boy, now 7, would be turning back to seven furlongs for only the second time in his career. Also in the field are Spotsgone, Elite Squadron, Thousand Words, Noonmark, Junior College, Island Warrior, Hewitts, and Carnacks Choice.

Secret Gypsy, a sensational maiden winner when she launched her career last summer at Saratoga, makes her much-anticipated return in the seven-furlong La Troienne for 3-year-old fillies. Secret Gypsy went to the sidelines after posting a 6 1/4-length debut victory that earned her a 100 Beyer Speed Figure.

Looming as key rivals are Game Face, runner-up behind Bsharpsonata as the odds-on favorite in the Grade 2 Davona Dale at Gulfstream, and the Grade 2-stakes-placed pair of Keep the Peace and Alina.

Eclipse Award winner Dreaming of Anna figures the one to beat in the Distaff Turf Mile. Dreaming of Anna, who won the 2006 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies over the Churchill Downs main track at 2, has captured five of her last six starts, including a pair of Grade 3 events over the Tampa Bay Downs turf course earlier this winter.

Ventura brings a three-race win streak of her own into the Distaff Turf Mile, including a recent win over Keeneland's Polytrack in the Grade 2 Madison.