05/19/2005 12:00AM

Artie Schiller must concede weight to all

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Dixie favorite Artie Schiller has won four of his last six graded races.

BALTIMORE - One year after winning his first career stakes race here, Artie Schiller returns to Pimlico on Saturday to continue his ascension to the top of the turf division.

will face five rivals, including defending Breeders' Cup Turf winner Better Talk Now, in the Grade 2, $200,000 Dixie Handicap. The Dixie is the richest of six stakes races on the Preakness undercard and is the first leg of a pick four wager that has a guaranteed pool of $1 million.

Since winning the Woodlawn Stakes here on Preakness Day 2004, Artie Schiller has won four graded events in six tries. His only bad performance in the last year was a 12th-place finish as the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

He erased the memory of that awful trip with a powerful 2 1/4-length victory in the Grade 2 Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland last month, his first start of the year.

"You never know how they're going to run when they've been off that long," trainer Jimmy Jerkens said. "He's sure shown when he kicks in he can beat just about anybody."

Artie Schiller will pay the price for winning that race by having to carry 124 pounds in the Dixie, spotting four to six pounds to his opponents.

Better Talk Now finished ninth in this race last year. Thereafter, he had a solid campaign that included wins in the Sword Dancer Invitational and the Breeders' Cup Turf. He returned from a four-month layoff to win the Fort Marcy at Aqueduct last month.

"I thought he did the Fort Marcy as he pleased," trainer Graham Motion said. "He won by a small margin, but I thought he did it comfortably enough."

Because of the way the conditions of this race are written, Better Talk Now drops five pounds from his last race and at 120 pounds is in receipt of four pounds from Artie Schiller.

"That was one of the appealing things," Motion said. "We knew he would have to give us weight; we knew we weren't going to be penalized too badly for winning that race."

, who won the Hollywood Derby last year, was beaten three lengths by Artie Schiller in the Maker's Mark. He gets an eight-pound shift in the weights from Artie Schiller and should appreciate the added furlong of this race.

"I thought he ran pretty good," trainer Shug McGaughey said about Good Reward's Maker's Mark. "He made a move with the winner and maybe flattened out a little bit the last part. I think the distance will help us, a race under his belt will help us."

could the main speed in the race. Cool Conductor, beaten five lengths in the Maker's Mark, was disqualified from an allowance win on Derby Day. Uncle Bruce completes the field.