03/03/2003 1:00AM

Papua a Carter candidate


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Mike Hushion usually doesn't make big plans for his horses right after they win a stakes, but there is something about Papua, who won Sunday's Hollie Hughes Handicap at Aqueduct for his fourth consecutive win, that has Hushion thinking big.

"I usually look for spots where I'm 6-5, not 65-1," Hushion said with a laugh the morning after Papua recorded his first stakes win by defeating Impeachthepro by three-quarters of a length in the restricted Hollie Hughes.

Despite his usually conservative approach, Hushion is seriously considering making the leap from a New York-bred stakes to the $350,000 Carter Handicap, a Grade 1 at Aqueduct on April 12, for Papua's next start.

"It's an aggressive idea," said Hushion, who has 18 wins at Aqueduct's inner track meet and is third in the standings. "But I think there is a little more room for improvement, and the 40 days [between starts] is a nice amount of time. The way he sat off those horses and pounced, I don't think we have got to the bottom of him."

Hushion, who trains Papua, a 4-year-old, for New York Racing Association chairman Barry K. Schwartz, also trained Papua's dam, Bella Ransom. Another Hushion client owned Bella Ransom and when she was retired because of a hind end problem after winning four races, Hushion suggested to Schwartz that he purchase the Red Ransom filly as a broodmare. Schwartz took Hushion's advice and Bella Ransom's second foal for Schwartz was Papua, a son of Louis Quartorze.

Richard Migliore, who has ridden for Hushion and Schwartz for many years, is Papua's regular rider and also rode Bella Ransom. Migliore said it's rewarding to be part of the Hushion/Schwartz team because it has allowed him to become familiar with generations of horses bred by Schwartz.

"It's something woven in history and that's kind of fun," Migliore said at Hushion's barn Monday morning. "It's satisfying to be involved like that."

Hushion also trains Papua's half-brother, Marked for Ransom, an unraced 3-year-old by Miner's Mark.

Elegant Designer will get brief freshening

Although very impressed by Elegant Designer's win in Saturday's Busher Stakes, trainer Tony Dutrow thinks the 3-year-old filly might be better suited to one-turn races.

Elegant Designer was making her first start around two turns in the Busher after winning 5 of 7 starts sprinting for owner Michael Sherman. The Busher, Elegant Designer's fourth consecutive victory, was her first start since she won the Great State Juvenile Fillies at Sam Houston on Dec. 7.

In the 1 1/16-mile Busher, Elegant Designer wore down Virgin Voyage and then held off a late charge from Xtra Heart to win the race by a head. The margins of Elegant Designer's other wins were much larger.

"She worked hard at it and I was impressed by how much courage she possesses," Dutrow said Monday from Maryland. "But I kind of feel like she's at her best at one turn."

Dutrow said the Busher probably "got to the bottom" of Elegant Designer because it was a hard race after a layoff. Dutrow said if she bounces back well, he would consider the $100,000 Comely at Aqueduct on April 18 or the $250,000 Stonerside Beaumont at Keeneland on April 10 for Elegant Designer's next start.

* Snake Mountain, a winner of his last four starts, including three graded races, has been assigned highweight of 123 pounds for Saturday's $75,000 Stymie Handicap. Among the other horses pointing to the 1 1/8-mile Stymie are last year's winner Ground Storm (117); Classic Endeavor (114); Iron Chancellor (113); and Country Only (111).