04/05/2009 11:00PM

Malibu Artiste facing double challenge


ARCADIA, Calif. - Malibu Artiste's career has come alive around two turns in recent months at Santa Anita.

After finishing second and third in two high-priced maiden claimers over six furlongs in December and January, Malibu Artiste followed with easy wins over a mile in a maiden claimer in February and a starter allowance in March.

Wednesday's seventh race will be the most important start of her career - a $52,000 allowance race over 1 1/8 miles on turf for 3-year-old fillies. The surface and the distance are new, and the competition is tougher.

It all adds to an important day for Malibu Artiste and her trainer, George Papaprodroumou, 32. Papaprodroumou, a native of Cyprus, has 10 horses in his stable and is hopeful that Malibu Artiste is good enough to merit a stakes appearance this year.

"I want to see how she runs on the turf," he said. "I think she could be a stakes filly."

Owned by Andreas Loizu, Malibu Artiste was trained by Paul Aguirre for her first three starts. She joined Papaprodroumou's stable before her front-running win in the one-mile starter allowance on March 19.

Corey Nakatani rode Malibu Artiste for the first time in the starter allowance and has the mount on Wednesday. To win, Malibu Artiste must conserve some of her speed in the longest race of her career.

Malibu Artiste was 3-1 in the starter allowance, and she could be overshadowed on Wednesday by fillies from more prominent stables.

Trainer Bobby Frankel will start Always Auditioning, the winner of a one-mile maiden race on turf on Feb. 27. Barry Abrams starts Pretty Unusual, who was second by a neck in a one-mile allowance race on the main track for statebreds March 26. Pretty Unusual will be making her turf debut on Wednesday.

Trainer Vladimir Cerin will start Vikkilee, who was third in the Arizona Oaks at Turf Paradise on Feb. 21 and third in a first-condition allowance race over a mile on turf here on March 11.

Owned by David and Holly Wilson, Vikkilee is winless in three starts since a maiden race over 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood Park last November.

"She seems better at the longer distances," Cerin said. "It looks like there may be three speed horses. She should have a shot to close.

"She's coming up to the race really well. In the last race she finished with interest. The fractions were kind of slow."