03/10/2004 1:00AM

Fonner Park track report

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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. - The scene around Joe Moss's barn hasn't changed much, yet.

The durable 13-year-old Leaping Plum still resides in his usual stall. But while the other horses in the Moss barn go to the track in the mornings to train, "The Plum" stays put.

Leaping Plum was retired last weekend and sometime in the near future will be taking a van ride to Brookings, S.D., where he will be pensioned at a farm owned by David Miskimins. Miskimins is the brother of Paul Miskimins, who with Clyde Woods campaigned Leaping Plum from his first appearance on a racetrack on Nov. 10, 1993 at Thistledown.

Leapin Plum's retirement has "been great for my wife," Moss said. "She's gotten to play with him and feed him apples. He's getting fat!"

The decision to retire Leaping Plum following his 10th consecutive appearance in the Grasmick Handicap, in which he finished fourth, was an easy one.

"He had a little heat in an ankle after the race," said Moss, "but it was gone the following day. We had him fit, but not enough. He got beat seven lengths in the Grasmick, and his ears weren't pinned back like they usually are. It wasn't like he was beaten a nose. It was time.

"We accomplished our main goal, to retire him sound and healthy. We came up a little short of $400,000 [in career earnings] but we were ready to quit on him four or five years ago."

Four or five years ago Leaping Plum still had a lot of running left to do. He was in the midst of a phenomenal streak of seven consecutive wins in the half-mile Grasmick Handicap. Following an upset in 2002, he returned a year ago at age 12 to claim his eighth Grasmick victory.

He set the Fonner Park four-furlong track record of 44.20 seconds in the 1996 Grasmick, won the Coca-Cola Sprint Handicap twice, and captured the Tondi-Budweiser Handicap from 1995 to 1998. Leaping Plum also owns the 5 1/2-furlong record at Prairie Meadows and shares the 4 1/2-furlong mark at Lincoln State Fair.

Leaping Plum finished his career with a mark of 31-10-14 from 71 starts for earnings of $398,528, which includes his handful of starts against Quarter Horses.