05/18/2003 11:00PM

Keogh barn hot on Plate trail


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The Keogh-Schickedanz express stayed on track for the $1 million Queen's Plate here on Saturday, with Wando running on the engine to win the 1 1/16 mile Marine Stakes.

The victory marked the stable's third straight score in a stakes prep for the June 22 Plate. Wando also captured the six-furlong Woodstock here April 19, while stablemate Mobil won the seven-furlong Queenston May 3.

Trainer Mike Keogh, who has stuck with his plan of keeping the two Gustav Schickedanz homebreds on separate paths, plans to go straight to the 1 1/4-mile Plate with Wando.

Mobil is slated to make his final pre-Plate appearance in the May 31 Plate Trial, a 1 1/8-mile race that would be only his second start of the season.

Wando will try to become the first horse to go from winning the Marine to winning the Plate since Victor Cooley in 1996. The two races were 28 days apart that year. This year's gap between the two races is 36 days, a span that does not concern Keogh.

"The timing's nice," said Keogh, in his office here Monday morning.

Wando was making his third start of the year Saturday. He opened his campaign with a second-place finish in the six-furlong Achievement here March 30.

"You can't go to the well too many times," said Keogh, who said that he will nominate Wando to the June 8 Victoria Park, an open 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds.

"If I feel like I need to use it, I'll use it," he said.

Mobil keeps busy, works well

Mobil, meanwhile, kept busy on the weekend by breezing a mile in 1:39.40 on the main track Sunday under jockey Todd Kabel.

"He worked really well, and galloped out real strong," said Keogh.

Mobil was joined for the final five-eighths of his move by Last Answer, a promising maiden in the Keogh shed row. Assistant trainer Serge LeBlanc was aboard Last Answer, who was clocked in 1:01.40.

Kabel, who has been riding both Wando and Mobil, will face his moment of truth following the Plate Trial.

Arco's Gold is one to watch

El Ruller, the Marine runner-up, is a Florida-bred and was the only non-Plate eligible in the field of six.

But Arco's Gold bears watching off his third-place finish.

Although beaten 7 1/4 lengths, Arco's Gold was making his first start since Nov. 2, and running two turns under what was a less-than-ideal scenario.

"He had to overcome a lot of things," said John Ross, who trains Arco's Gold for Alex and Steven DiIorio. "He had a virus, and missed workouts and a race."

Arco's Gold, who wintered in Florida, had been slated to make his seasonal bow in the Queenston but fell behind schedule.

"Considering, I thought I ran a good race," said Ross. "He was coming on at the end, and galloped out strong. I think he'll get a ton out of that race; he really tried hard. I have to commend him for what he did.

"Now we're back on path, everything's good, and we're pretty happy about it."

While Arco's Gold has been nominated to the Plate Trial and will be kept eligible for the Victoria Park, Ross is holding his cards close to the vest.

"We'll see how things go along," he said.

Brattothecore works for Oaks

Ross also reported that Brattothecore, who had been expected to run in Monday's Selene Stakes, worked six furlongs in 1:15 here Sunday and is now heading straight to the June 8 Labatt Woodbine Oaks.

Owned by the Jam Jar Racing Stable of Bud and Jackie Reynolds, Brattothecore will go into the 1 1/8 mile Oaks off a fourth-place finish in the seven-furlong Fury here May 4.

Forever Grand coming around

Forever Grand, the third-place finisher in last year's Queen's Plate, underlined his versatility here Sunday by winning the New Providence at six furlongs.

"He'd indicated in the last couple of weeks that he was really coming around," said Bob Tiller, who trains Forever Grand and is a co-owner along with Frank DiGiulio.

"He's a hard-trying horse; he's been good to us."

Forever Grand was making his third start of the year in the New Providence, having finished third in the April 11 Jacques Cartier and fourth in the April 26 Vigil, both open stakes. The New Providence was restricted to Ontario-sired horses.

"We'll follow the program," said Tiller, who could swing back with Forever Grand in the $125,000 Steady Growth, a 1 1/16-mile Ontario Sire Stakes here May 28. "We don't want to be heroes."

Forever Grand was ridden by Kabel, who was recording his meet-leading fifth stakes win. Tiller leads all trainers with four stakes wins.

Trial iffy for Executive Legacy

Tiller has a candidate for this year's Plate in Executive Legacy, a gelding owned by Rocco Marcello who is coming off a first-level allowance score over seven furlongs here May 10.

Executive Legacy had been entered in a 1 1/16-mile allowance here Wednesday, but that race did not fill. Executive Legacy is nominated to the Plate Trial, but Tiller said Executive Legacy may not run in that race or the Queen's Plate.

Tiller noted that Executive Legacy was Ontario-sired and would have a number of lucrative options down the road.

"He's a talented horse, but I think this year's Canadian-bred 3-year-old crop is much better than usual."

* Jockey Simon Husbands will serve a three-day suspension Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after withdrawing an appeal of an earlier ruling.