07/17/2017 5:14PM

Fonner Park legend Leaping Plum dies at 26

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Leaping Plum's career included 29 wins in 66 career starts for earnings of $371,584.

Leaping Plum, an eight-time winner of the Grasmick Handicap at Fonner Park, died Sunday night in his pasture in Grand Island, Neb. He was 26.

The gelded son of Lightning Leap was bred in Kentucky by Marty Takacs, and sold to owner Clyde Woods for $11,000 at the 1992 Keeneland September yearling sale. He was co-owned by Woods and Paul Miskimins, and trained by Joseph Moss for all of his 66 career starts from ages 2 to 13.

Leaping Plum started once at age 2, winning convincingly at Thistledown. At 3, he wintered at Fonner Park, spent the summer at Ak-Sar-Ben, and ran the rest of the year in Ohio.

He began his memorable run of Grasmick Handicap victories in 1995, the first start of his 4-year-old campaign, when he won the 4-furlong race by 1 1/2 lengths. It was the first of three consecutive stakes wins at Fonner that season, and he added a fourth later that year at Lincoln Race Course.

The Grasmick Handicap became synonymous with Leaping Plum throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s. Leaping Plum took every edition of the race from 1995 to 2001. After finishing third in 2002, he came back to win it for an eighth time the following year at age 12.

His most dominant performance in the Grasmick came in 1996, when the gelding led at every point of call to win by 8 1/2 lengths and set the Fonner Park track record for a half-mile in 44.20 seconds, a mark that still stands. The gelding’s shortest margin of victory was 1 1/2 lengths in his first appearance.

Leaping Plum’s starts became more spaced apart as he got older, racing just three times at age 12, but winning or placing in stakes company each time.
He returned off a nine-month layoff to make one final start at age 13, taking his 10th shot at the Grasmick. He finished a well-beaten fourth that day, prompting his retirement.

Leaping Plum finished his on-track career with 29 wins in 66 career starts for earnings of $371,584.

In addition to his eight Grasmick Handicap wins, he also won the Coca-Cola Sprint Handicap at Fonner four times, the Tondi Budweiser Handicap at Fonner twice, and one edition each of the Grand Island Eagles Handicap at Fonner, the Speed Handicap at Lincoln and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Handicap at The Woodlands.

In addition to his track record at Fonner, Leaping Plum also set fastest times for 4 1/2 furlongs at Lincoln and for 5 1/2 furlongs at Prairie Meadows, but they have since been surpassed.

Leaping Plum spent the last few years of his life on the farm of Margaret Landis in Grand Island.

“He passed quietly in his sleep out in Nebraska,” said Jon Moss, son of trainer Joseph Moss, in a Facebook post. “He ran up last night, as is typical with his herd-mates for his grain, and this morning was laying peacefully in the pasture.

“Few people have had near the impact as this animal has had on my life,” he continued. “Funny how it can be that an animal impacts in such a large way.”