05/17/2006 11:00PM

Artie Schiller must deal with rabbit

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Artie Schiller (right) battles Cool Conductor in last year's Dixie - a race Artie Schiller lost as the 3-5 favorite.

BALTIMORE - Though he has won 50 percent of his races - including last year's Breeders' Cup Mile - Artie Schiller has had his share of tough beats. One of the toughest came here last Preakness Day when Cool Conductor nosed out Artie Schiller at the wire in the $200,000 Dixie Handicap at Pimlico

, who won the Woodlawn here on Preakness Day as a 3-year-old in 2004, has returned to Baltimore, hoping to reverse his fortunes in the Dixie - which has received a purse bump to $250,000 - when he takes on six rivals in the Grade 2 race scheduled for 1 1/8 miles on turf. Among his challengers will be 2004 Breeders' Cup Turf winner Better Talk Now, who makes his 7-year-old debut in this spot.

Last year, Artie Schiller won the Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland and was sent off the 3-5 favorite in the Dixie. He bobbled twice from the eighth pole to the wire before being outfinished by Cool Conductor. This year, Artie Schiller was beaten a nose by Miesque's Approval in the Maker's Mark in what amounted to another tough beat.

"He really ran hard," trainer Jimmy Jerkens. "He had to run in spots instead of putting in that middle move in order to keep [Good Reward] from burying him down inside. It cost him at the end, I guess."

Artie Schiller, the 124-pound highweight under Garrett Gomez, drew the outside post in this seven-horse field, but will have a new dynamic to deal with in this spot. Graham Motion, the trainer of Better Talk Now, has entered Shake the Bank in the Dixie. Shake the Bank has served as an effective pacesetter, or rabbit, for Better Talk Now in the past. He figures to be winging it on the front end on Saturday.

Last year, Motion brought Better Talk Now to the Dixie off a victorious prep race in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy Handicap. This year, Better Talk Now makes his first start since last November when he finished 12th in the Japan Cup.

"I have the utmost respect for Artie Schiller, but does it bother me that we haven't had a race this year?" Motion said. "No, he runs well fresh."

also runs well over a course with give in the ground. Rains forecast for Thursday and Friday should soften up the turf.

Rebel Rebel, whom Richard Dutrow Jr. ships in from New York, should be able to handle a course with give in the ground, and Dutrow believes the horse is better than ever entering this race.

"I'm sure he's going to run a very good race," said Dutrow. "I don't know where that puts him."

Edgar Prado will ride Rebel Rebel.

was compromised by a bad break when third as the favorite in the Fort Marcy last out at Aqueduct. Dreadnaught, the Laurel Turf Cup winner, and Dr Detroit, a recent allowance winner who scratched out a race here Thursday, complete the field.