02/26/2003 12:00AM

Fonner: Leaping Plum's legend grows

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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. - What Leaping Plum has done on the race track is the stuff that legends - and possibly books - are made of.

The grand old 12-year-old, owned by Clyde Woods and Paul Miskimins, returned last weekend and won his eighth Grasmick Handicap in nine consecutive attempts. His only loss in the race was in last year's edition, when he broke a bit slowly and could not catch two opponents in the stretch.

"We were really proud of him," said trainer Joe Moss, as he was walking "The Plum" on Wednesday afternoon.

"To win at the age of 12 and still show so much class. Newil [Wall] rode a super race with him. He was stuck down there on the rail where nobody had done anything all day long. Newil just took him back and brought him outside."

Moss's phone has been ringing.

"A writer in Chicago, his name escapes me now, is writing a book on horses that have achieved a lot in their later years," he said. "He called me a few weeks ago and it sounded like we would get a couple pages. I think we may have a chapter now."

Leaping Plum, a son of Lightning Leap, out of the Dr. Blum mare Velvet Plum, has made a career out of winning stakes at Fonner Park.

Besides his eight Grasmick victories, he has also won the Budweiser-Tondi Handicap in 1995 and 1998, the now-discontinued Coke Sprint four times (1995-98), and the last running of the Grand Island Eagles Handicap, in 1996.

His prowess hasn't been limited to Fonner, but his mark over this track would make a successful career for any horse. From 30 lifetime starts over this five-eighths-mile oval, Leaping Plum has a 19-6-2 record and earnings of $239,082. His complete lifetime total, including Quarter Horse races, is 31-9-13 from 68 starts and earnings of $392,992.

He has also won the Speed Handicap at Lincoln (in track-record time); an overnight handicap at Thistledown; the Show Me Handicap against Quarter Horses; the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Stakes at The Woodlands; and numerous allowance races at Prairie Meadows. His 5 1/2-furlong track mark of 1:02.40 still stands at that Iowa track.

"We've got his half-sister now and got some foals coming up from her, a Caller I.D., a Defensive Play, and an Ide," Moss said. "The 2-year-old looks just like him. Of course, that doesn't mean he has the ability."

Looking ahead, Moss said a campaign as a 13-year-old isn't out of the question for Leaping Plum.

"He can run as long as he's dead sound," he said. "He loves what he does and he loves to train."