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Usually, it's best to buy a mutual fund only after it's chalked up a solid long-term record. But new funds run by experienced managers can be an exception.

We pored over the list of fledgling funds whose managers possess fine track records, and came up with four intriguing prospects:- ARTISAN SMALL CAP (800-344-1770) opened just this month, but Carlene Murphy Ziegler formerly co-managed three other funds: SteinRoe Special, Strong Common Stock and Strong Opportunity. In partnership with Richard Weiss, Ziegler steered those funds to a decade of market-beating returns.

The pair concentrated on buying stocks at less than half their breakup value. Artisan will close when its assets reach $300 million, ensuring the fund will stay nimble.

The big question mark about Artisan: How much of the success of the other funds was due to Ziegler, how much to ex-partner Weiss and how much to their synergy?

- BONNEL GROWTH (800-873-8637) is managed by Arthur Bonnel, who ran MIM Stock Appreciation from 1987 until recently. It chalked up an annualized return of 9.8 percent, versus 8.2 percent for the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index.

Bonnel looks for fast-growing companies and is unafraid of sky-high price-earnings ratios. Unfortunately, the fund also begins with a high expense ratio of 2.2 percent annually.

- STEINROE SPECIAL VENTURE (800-338-2550) is a new fund, but managers Bruce Dunn and Richard Peterson also run SteinRoe Special, the flagship fund of the SteinRoe family, with $1.2 billion in assets.

"We are not doing anything new," Dunn says. What's different is that Special Venture will invest primarily in smaller stocks, while SteinRoe Special invests in bigger companies.

- WARBURG PINCUS EMERGING MARKETS (800-888-6878) was launched at the beginning of the year, when the jokes first began about "submerging" markets. But manager Richard King, 51, thinks the timing was perfect to allow him to accumulate stocks on the cheap.