07/04/2002 11:00PM

Belle Artiste scores

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - Belle Artiste sat behind slow fractions under jockey Jose Velez Jr. and came charging down the middle of the track to win the $50,000 West Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth by two lengths over True Rose. Superfines Luvey was third.

The Rusty Arnold-trained Belle Artiste ($8.60) covered six furlongs in 1:11.08 over a fast track before a crowd of 10,832. Friday was her first trip to Monmouth, and with her first stakes victory she improved to 5-1-1 in 12 lifetime starts for owner John Peace.

Belle Artiste and True Rose met once before - at Aqueduct on March 15 in a third-level allowance - and the Billy Turner-trained True Rose crossed the wire first that day but was disqualified and placed second for bumping Belle Artiste in deep stretch. In their second matchup Friday, both horses were making their first start at Monmouth. The 4-year-old Belle Artiste got the first jump on the tiring front-runners and won going away over a field of six, reduced by two scratches.

Belle Artiste entered the West Long Branch off a third-place finish in the one-mile WNBC Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard June 8.