04/11/2006 11:00PM

Artie back to party

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Artie Schiller started 2005 with a victory in the Maker's Mark and ended it with a win in the BC Mile (above).

LEXINGTON, Ky. - That was a beautiful set of bookends Artie Schiller brought to his 2005 campaign. After starting the year with a rousing victory in the Maker's Mark Mile, he ran four more times with mixed success before capping his year with a dramatic triumph in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Trainer Jimmy Jerkens can only hope 2006 goes as well - but whether or not it does, the design is identical. Artie Schiller, unraced since winning the Oct. 29 BC Mile at Belmont Park, makes his 5-year-old debut Friday in the 19th Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland.

"It took him a little time to get his stuff together after we brought him back into training in Florida," said Jerkens. "It took us a little longer to get him sound and strong. But his last two works, it looks like he's really rounded to form. He's been really sharp, and I'm feeling pretty confident about Friday."

, owned by Timber Bay Farm and Mrs. Thomas J. Walsh, drew the inside post in a field of six older horses in the Grade 2, $250,000 Maker's Mark, the ninth of 10 Friday races. Garrett Gomez, who was aboard for the Breeders' Cup victory, will be in from California to retain the mount.

After getting time off following the Breeders' Cup, Artie Schiller was sent to Jerkens at Palm Meadows in south Florida, then went north to New York with the rest of the stable about two weeks ago. After two breezes, including a five-furlong work Monday over the Belmont Park training track, Artie Schiller was shipped to Keeneland, where he arrived Wednesday morning following an overnight van ride.

Jerkens said there might be only small variations in the schedule that Artie Schiller used last year in getting from the Maker's Mark to the Breeders' Cup, which will be run this year on Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs.

"It'll basically be along the same lines," he said. "We might try to stretch him out in longer races, but I don't know. If it looks he's going to have the same kind of powerful stalking style, we may stay basically the same."

Between the Maker's Mark and BC Mile, Artie Schiller ran in the Dixie, Manhattan, Baruch, and Kelso handicaps.

"We might shoot for the Manhattan again, but let's see what happens with this race first," said Jerkens.

Last April, Artie Schiller won the Maker's Mark by 2 1/4 lengths over Gulch Approval, who happens to be one of his five rivals Friday. Gulch Approval (post 4) brings decent form, and more recency, to Keeneland, having raced twice already this year, including a win in the Grade 3 Appleton Handicap at Gulfstream Park in February.

The rest of the Maker's Mark field includes two other Grade 1 winners: (post 6), winner of the 2003 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic.

Two other turf veterans round out a terrific cast: (post 2), a highly impressive winner of the recent Lure Stakes on Florida Derby Day at Gulfstream Park, and Miesque's Approval (post 5), winner of the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Turf two starts back.

"Last year the Maker's Mark was a tough race, but this one looks even tougher," said Jerkens. "It should be a good test for us coming back."

Soaring Free seeks win No. 3

Besides the Maker's Mark, a 10-race Friday card also includes three allowances (races 4, 6, 8) and the Grade 3, $100,000 Shakertown Stakes (race 7) for older turf sprinters, which drew two-time defending champion Soaring Free.

Bred and owned by Sam-Son Farm, Soaring Free, an earner of more than $2.1 million, is the horse to beat in the Shakertown. Among his chief rivals in a full field are Mighty Beau and Onthedeanslist, both of whom have made their living in turf sprints.