06/09/2005 12:00AM

Artie Schiller seeks first Grade 1 win

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Artie Schiller wins the Grade 2 Maker's Mark at Keeneland two starts back on April 15.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Jimmy Jerkens suffered some anxious moments during the running of the Grade 2 Dixie on Preakness Day at Pimlico when his horse Artie Schiller bobbled twice in the stretch.

While racing in tight quarters on the inside, Artie Schiller stumbled at the eighth pole and again at the sixteenth pole and wound up losing by a nose to Cool Conducter.

Jerkens said the inner portion of the turf at Pimlico was "beat up" and that Artie Schiller probably didn't care for the less-than-firm conditions caused by heavy rain the day before. The time of 1:52.79 for the 1 1/8-mile Dixie indicates how much moisture was in the track.

After several days of hot, dry weather in New York, Artie Schiller should get the conditions he prefers when he runs in Saturday's $400,000 Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park, where he has won 4 of 5 previous starts.

Eleven were entered in the Grade 1 Manhattan, including last year's winner, Meteor Storm.

, who will be ridden by Edgar Prado, figures to go off the favorite in the 1 1/4-mile turf race. Should he win, it will be his first Grade 1 victory. A 4-year-old, Artie Schiller has won two graded stakes at Belmont, the Grade 2 Jamaica and Grade 3 Hill Prince.

"I didn't think it made a difference, but I guess he is better when [the grass] is firm," Jerkens said of Artie Schiller's effort in the Dixie. "He didn't take off like he usually does."

Artie Schiller drew the rail and carries 122 pounds as the highweight.

Unlike several others in the field, Artie Schiller has not won at the Manhattan distance. His only race at 10 furlongs came in last year's Virginia Derby when he finished second to Kitten's Joy, who later won the Eclipse Award for turf male.

hasn't won since last year's Manhattan. In his last race, he finished second to America Alive in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill. Last year in the Manhattan, Meteor Storm was 6-1. On Saturday, his price will be shorter.

"I have a lot more confidence in him now than I did last year," said Meteor Storm's trainer, Wally Dollase.

closed from last to win the Woodford at odds of nearly 18-1. Neil Howard, America Alive's trainer, admits the Manhattan distance is a question for his 4-year-old.

"It's a slight concern," Howard said, "but unless something were to happen, I'm sure he will run well."

Good Reward, trained by Shug McGaughey, won the 1 1/4-mile Hollywood Derby last year. In his last start, he finished third in the Dixie.

"He wants a good pace in front of him," McGaughey said.

Quest Star has early lick. The horse's trainer, Elliott Walden, has removed the blinkers from the 6-year-old, who has worn them in his last 30 starts. Without the blinkers, Quest Star might not be as keen in the early running and that could leave Artie Schiller with the early lead.

Relaxed Gesture and Saint Stephen are both winners at the Manhattan distance at Belmont.

The distance suits the gelding Macaw and, on his best day, he is capable of surprising at a square price.

Mustanfar, Alost, and the filly Angara complete the field.

The field

Manhattan Handicap
Purse: $400,000; 1 1/4 miles, turf; Grade 1

PPHORSEJOCKEYWT.ODDS
1Artie SchillerE. Prado1225-2
2Good RewardJ. Bailey11710-1
3Saint StephenR. Migliore11410-1
4MustanfarJ. Santos1178-1
5AlostJ. Samyn11530-1
6Quest StarJ. Court11430-1
7America AliveJ. Velazquez1197-2
8Relaxed GestureB. Blanc1168-1
9AngaraG. Stevens11215-1
10MacawJ. Castellano11530-1
11Meteor StormC. Velasquez1194-1

* Odds by DRF
* Television: Saturday, 3-5:30 p.m. Eastern, ESPN