05/23/2003 11:00PM

Belle Artiste invades at Philly


Belle Artiste, Astrid, and Maresha have never lost at Philadelphia Park. But only one of them can win when they meet in Monday's $100,000, six-furlong My Juliet, the track's first stakes of the season.

Class-wise, the edge goes to the New York-based Belle Artiste. A 5-year-old mare trained by Rusty Arnold, Belle Artiste is a multiple stakes winner who earned her career-best 93 Beyer Speed Figure for a victory in the Steve Van Buren last fall in her only previous start at Philly Park. She most recently finished second in a money allowance at Keeneland last month and should be primed for a peak effort in the third start of her current form cycle.

Astrid, who races for the Devil Eleven Stable owned by former Duke basketball standout Bobby Hurley, may have a tactical advantage as the lone pure speed in the seven-horse field of fillies and mares. Like Belle Artiste, the 5-year-old Astrid will be making her third start off a layoff. Last year, Astrid won three races, including a wire-to-wire victory over allowance horses at Philly Park in December.

Maresha is based at Philly Park with trainer John Servis, but the 4-year-old filly hasn't raced at the track since September 2001, when she won the one-mile Manayunk. Maresha could be approaching her top form after improving from a 72 to a 90 Beyer Figure in her second start of the year, the Late Bloomer Stakes at Delaware Park.

The other dangerous horse is Nash's Prospect. A four-time winner at Philly Park, Nash's Prospect was second to Mandy's Gold in last year's My Juliet. She returned from a six-month layoff and won an optional claimer by two lengths in late April.