07/18/2001 11:00PM

Casse has two choices for stakes

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Mark Casse's two most accomplished runners, Grade 1 winner Exciting Story and Grade 2 winner Prime Timber, head Saturday's $107,600 Bold Venture Handicap at Woodbine.

Six older runners were entered in the 6 1/2-furlong dash, but the field would be reduced to five if Casse decides to scratch one of his two big guns. Exciting Story has the outside post, while Prime Timber drew post 1.

"I was leaning towards running Prime Timber before the draw," Casse said Wednesday, "but with their post positions, now I'm leaning more towards running Exciting Story. I hate the one-hole. I'm not being cute when I enter a couple of horses in a race. I like to explore all my possibilities and wait until the last minute."

Exciting Story shocked the racing world when he took the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap as the longest shot on the board at Belmont on May 28. Casse tried Exciting Story on the grass in allowance company here June 30, but came away disappointed when the colt finished fifth under regular rider Patrick Husbands.

"I think he was confused," Casse said of Exciting Story. "Patrick said he had no problem handling the turf.

With a slow pace in that allowance race, Exciting Story "should have been trying to run over the top of horses," Casse said. "He wasn't on the bit. He was more interested in the horses outside of him. He was shying away from them."

Casse said the race took nothing out of Exciting Story.

"After he runs his race," Casse said, "it takes him over five minutes to catch his breath, because he's a very heavy breather. After this race he didn't make a peep."

Prime Timber, fourth in the 1999 Kentucky Derby, has not raced since finishing sixth in the Sept. 3 Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap. He was purchased by Sez Who Racing as a stallion prospect after that Grade 2 race.

"He's ready to run," said Casse. "It doesn't concern me that he hasn't run in a long time. He has a lot of miles under him."

Completing the Bold Venture line-up are Mr. Epperson, Tempered Appeal, Crucible, and Catahoula Parish.

Tempered Appeal was claimed from Casse for $80,000 by trainer Abraham Katryan when he won a six-furlong optional claimer July 8. Katryan said owner Bruno Schickedanz was keen on Tempered Appeal, who captured the 1999 Storm Cat Stakes at the Meadowlands.

"Bruno thought the horse was going to run a big race," said Katryan. "He thought that he could be a stallion prospect for him."

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