10/18/2006 11:00PM

Sixth time a charm for Artiste Royal?


So far this year, Artiste Royal's season has been a string of narrow losses in major stakes. The trend can turn positive when Artiste Royal starts in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Carleton Burke Handicap at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting.

Winless in five starts this year, Artiste Royal is well-placed to gain his first American stakes win in the Burke. Earlier this year, Artiste Royal was second in the Grade 3 Inglewood Handicap in June and the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap in August and third in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap in July and the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch Turf Championship on Sept. 30.

His half-length loss to The Tin Man in the Hirsch was a winning try and the main reason why Artiste Royal will be favored in the Burke, which is run over 1 1/2 miles on turf.

Trained by Laura de Seroux, Artiste Royal is seeking his first win since the Group 3 La Coupe Stakes in France in June 2005. A 5-year-old horse, Artiste Royal is winless in six starts in this country.

Artiste Royal is the 118-pound topweight in the Burke, which has drawn one 2006 stakes winner - Runaway Dancer, who won the restricted Escondido Handicap at Del Mar on Aug. 2. Runaway Dancer had made one subsequent start, finishing seventh in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap on Aug. 27.

Trained by Dan Hendricks, Runaway Dancer, 7, won the 2003 Carleton Burke by a neck over Labirinto, another starter in Saturday's race.

Labirinto finished second in the 2004 San Luis Rey Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on turf and emerged from that race with a tendon injury. After a 30-month break, Labirinto finished fourth in an optional claimer at Del Mar on Aug. 27.

The comeback race has left trainer Leonard Powell optimistic that Labirinto, 8, can pull an upset over Artiste Royal. The race is "not that tough," Powell said. "I hope there will be some pace. He can set at the back and come and finish."

The Burke marks the 52nd career start of Sarafan, a 9-year-old gelding who has won 10 races and $2,621,881. Trained by Neil Drysdale, Sarafan is winless in nine starts since the 2004 Escondido Handicap. He finished first in the 2005 Escondido, but was disqualified and placed second in a controversial decision.

Saturday's race is Sarafan's first start since a seventh in the Inglewood Handicap at Hollywood Park in April.

"He'll probably need a run," Drysdale said. "He's been working well."