04/02/2003 1:00AM

Paquette was thinking Plate at purchase


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Chantal Paquette has kept a low profile since taking out her trainer's license here in the fall of 1999.

But now Paquette, a 28-year-old native of Montreal, finds herself in the early glare of the Queen's Plate spotlight after recording her first career stakes victory.

Paquette, who trains four horses here, sent out Majestic Wisdom to edge the heavily favored Wando here in last Sunday's six-furlong Achievement.

"I thought he'd be competitive," said Paquette, who trains Majestic Wisdom for Majestic Thoroughbreds, the nom du course of her father, Bruce Paquette. "Whether he'd win or not, we just had to hope.

"He certainly had his running shoes on - he was ready for it. And I think he's better suited to longer distances."

Majestic Wisdom, an Ontario-sired colt, was purchased for just $7,000 at the local select yearling sale.

"From the time I came over and looked at him, I thought he had 'Plate hopeful' written all over him," said Paquette.

"It was his size and his attitude. He's a very confident type of horse."

Majestic Wisdom performed creditably enough here at 2, winning a maiden race over seven furlongs on yielding turf and winding up his campaign with a third-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile Kingarvie on the main track.

Majestic Wisdom and Paquette then went to winter at Classic Mile Farm in Florida, and the colt started twice in first-level allowance races at Gulfstream, finishing sixth over seven furlongs on the main track and then eighth at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

"He didn't like that track at all," said Paquette, who worked as an exercise rider here for trainers Jim Day, Tino Attard, and Mike Wright and still gallops her own horses. "It wasn't his type of surface."

Paquette had considered keeping Majestic Wisdom at Gulfstream for another turf try in the Caltech Handicap, but opted to return home for the Achievement.

"He runs well on dirt," said Paquette, "but he still seems like that much better a horse on grass."

But turf, of course, now will have to wait as Majestic Wisdom continues on the trail to the $1 million, 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate here June 22.

"That has been the lifetime plan for him," said Paquette. "You certainly don't get an opportunity for it every day, either."

Paquette plans to nominate Majestic Wisdom to the $150,000 Queenston, a seven-furlong race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds here May 3, but will keep her options open.

"I'll give him every opportunity to keep building his confidence," she said.

Keogh takes loss in stride

While understandably a touch disappointed, trainer Mike Keogh was far from despondent over Wando's defeat.

"I thought I was probably two works shy," said Keogh, who had spent the winter with Wando on owner-breeder Gustav Schickedanz's farm in South Carolina. "It was maybe around the 70-yard pole, he got a little short.

"But the horse that beat him was coming off a 1 1/16-mile race in Florida, and [Wando] was giving him seven pounds."

Keogh did take heart in the way Wando rated early under Todd Kabel.

"I'd have liked him not to have hit the front so soon," said Keogh, "but he kind of found himself there. Todd was still sitting on him, when he made the lead."

Wando could make his next start here April 19 in the $125,000 Woodstock, an open six-furlong stakes.

Mobil, the other Queen's Plate candidate in the Keogh-Schickedanz fold, worked six furlongs in 1:13.80 on the main track Wednesday morning and is slated to make his seasonal bow in the Queenston.

Hutton returns to the scene

Greg Hutton, a jockey who began his career here but had spent most of the last 23 years competing in the eastern United States, notched his first win of the meeting aboard Slot Happy in Sunday's second race.

Hutton, a 40-year-old native of Markham, Ontario, had come to Woodbine to work for the legendary Frank Merrill in the late 1970's and recorded his first winner for Merrill here June 6, 1980.

"I rode here the one summer," said Hutton. "I went down there looking for greener pastures, and got lucky."

It's safe to say that a little more than luck has been involved, as Hutton's win Sunday was number 1,983 of his career.

Hutton also has 1,870 seconds and 1,640 thirds from 15,082 mounts, for purses of almost $27 million.

One of the high points of Hutton's days in the States included a Kentucky Derby ride in 1987 aboard Templar Hill, who finished in fifth place, 3 3/4 lengths behind Alysheba.

In more recent years, Hutton won three editions of Pimlico's Baltimore Breeders' Cup Handicap, with Testafly in 1998 and 1999 and with Lightning Paces in 2001. He also won the 2000 Virginia Derby aboard Lightning Paces. He also won four stakes with Silent Valay from 1998 through 2000.

But Hutton, who lived in Maryland, was tiring of the travel between the various East Coast venues and began looking more and more seriously at Woodbine, with its lengthy meeting and increasingly attractive purse structure.

"I'd thought about coming back for the last four or five years," said Hutton. "I finally made the move."

Hutton's decision was expedited by two Woodbine-based trainer, Shelley Fitzgerald and Warren Wilcox, who both raced at Laurel this past winter and had called upon his services.

"They talked me into coming back," said the jockey, who has hooked up with agent Beverlee Morris here.

Handpainted back for Star Shoot

Handpainted, winner of two stakes and a Sovereign Award finalist in the 2-year-old filly division last year, will make her seasonal bow in Saturday's featured Star Shoot Stakes.

A Kentucky-bred owned by John and Glenn Sikura, Handpainted wintered in New Orleans with trainer Josie Carroll, who also will send out Buffalo Jump in the Star Shoot.