02/19/2013 2:45PM

Aqueduct: Ortiz brothers center stage on Thursday card

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One of the winter’s best races has been the battle between Irad Ortiz Jr. and his younger brother Jose, who enter the last few weeks of the winter meet tied for the lead with 54 victories, 13 ahead of their closest pursuer.

Their sibling rivalry renews in Thursday’s second race, a $59,000 optional claiming route for New York-bred fillies and mares that serves as the nominal feature.

Schillerette has won two of her last three starts for trainer Rudy Rodriguez, who last week opened a seven-win lead in the standings, and the consistent mare will go favored from the rail with five-pound apprentice Jose Ortiz.

Schillerette, in for the optional $35,000 claim price, gets three pounds from Freud’s Notebook, Guyana Princess, Erin Enchanted, and Silver Prize, the 2-3-4-5 finishers in this same condition Jan. 31.

Freud’s Notebook and Silver Prize softened each other up in a pace duel that day, and a similar scenario could work to the advantage of Schillerette, Guyana Princess, and/or Erin Enchanted, who all do their best running late.

Erin Enchanted gets a switch to Irad Ortiz Jr. and makes her second start back from a layoff for Richard Schosberg, who has posted a solid 6-1-4 record from 26 starters at the meet, capped by a 16-1 winner Sunday.

“She got squeezed back between horses on the first turn, and we’re looking for her to improve off that race, which was her first in two months and first around two turns,” Schosberg said of the Jan. 31 race. “And it looks like the pace should be honest, albeit it’s a short field.”

The Ortiz brothers also ride contenders for the same trainers in race 6, but in reverse roles, with Irad aboard Blue Ballerina for Rodriguez and Jose on the Schosberg-trained Iratinelexburance (easy for you to spell).

In race 7, a $35,000 “beaten” claimer where the day’s fastest horses are found, Irad Ortiz pilots J W Blue, the third-place finisher in the 2011 Travers, who makes his seasonal debut and first start for Chad Brown.

Meanwhile, Jose Ortiz has a return call on Late Starter, who was transferred to David Jacobson after winning his first two starts at the meet for the suspended Richard Dutrow Jr.

Jacobson also sends out Punster in the one-mile race that had originally been drawn for the snowed-out program of Feb. 8.