04/14/2005 11:00PM

Artie Schiller sharp off layoff

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Artie Schiller, under Edgar Prado, wins the Maker's Mark Mile by 2 1/4 lengths.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Artie Schiller returned to the races in resounding fashion Friday when he thumped an exceptionally deep field of turf milers, drawing clear under Edgar Prado to take the Grade 2, $250,000 before a sun-splashed crowd of 18,787 at Keeneland.

Artie Schiller, making his first start since finishing a troubled 12th as the lukewarm favorite in the Breeders' Cup Mile in October, returned $5 as the favorite in a field of 10 older horses. Gulch Approval finished second, 2 1/4 lengths behind the winner and another three-quarters of a length before Good Reward.

Completing the order of finish were Mr. Light, Trade Fair, Cool Conductor, Salford City, Muqbil, Laura's Lucky Boy, and B.A. Way.

Always prominent after breaking sharply from post 2, Artie Schiller finished the mile over a firm course in 1:34.09, just .55 of a second off the stakes record set last year by Perfect Soul.

"We just sat there nice and easy, and when I pressed the pedal, he flew," said Prado. "I love riding horses with that much class."

For Artie Schiller, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old by El Prado, the Maker's Mark victory was the sixth from his last eight starts and his eighth of 14 overall. He blossomed into an outstanding middle-distance turf horse last year when he captured four stakes, but trainer Jimmy Jerkens was unsure Friday whether he will eventually point Artie Schiller to the BC Mile or BC Turf when the championships are run at the trainer's home base of Belmont Park Oct. 29.

"I was confident coming in," said Jerkens. "I thought he would run well fresh, and with the long stretch at Keeneland, it felt like the right spot."

Artie Schiller is owned by Mrs. Thomas Walsh and the Timber Bay Farm of William Entenmann. He now has earned $710,853.

Gulch Approval, always in contention under Rafael Bejarano at 13-1, completed a $2 exacta that returned $65.20.

"My horse ran a good race but the winner was too much," said Bejarano.

The victory was the first in a Keeneland stakes for Jerkens. For Prado, the victory was his 22nd in a Keeneland stakes, all of them coming since the 2001 spring meet.