06/04/2004 12:00AM

Rundle at top of game for stakes


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Rundle, a close second to Woodbine shipper Krz Ruckus here May 10, heads a seven-horse field Sunday in the $40,000 Expedite Plus at Fort Erie, the first of 24 stakes scheduled for the meet.

The five-furlong Expedite Plus, restricted to horses who have had at least three starts here in 2003-2004, is one of 12 "in-house" stakes in which specified previous starts at the track are required for eligibility.

There is an additional bonus of up to $20,000 for Canadian-breds, offered by the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society.

Trained by Myckie Neubauer, Rundle began his 2004 campaign at Woodbine with a wire-to-wire win in an allowance race at 33-1 on opening day, April 17.

Rundle faded out of the money in a following race at the Toronto track before taking on Krz Ruckus on his home ground.

"Against Krz Ruckus, from start to finish, they were right together," said Carl Norris, husband and partner of Neubauer.

"We were thrilled to have him finish that close," NorrIs said of the half-length defeat. "Krz Ruckus is closing in on $1 million." Krz Ruckus has earned $848,435.

Rundle, 5, earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 90 for his effort.

Lucky Tec appears to be Rundle's main foe, even though he finished 4 1/2 lengths behind him in the Krz Ruckus race. It was Lucky Tec's first start of the year.

Lucky Tec, who is part of an entry with Ashagio, improved significantly in his last start, May 24, when he finished second to High Blitz at six furlongs. High Blitz was given a Beyer Figure of 94, the highest to date at the meet.

Daryl Ezra, trainer of the entry, admits he has some concern about the distance of the race.

"If it was six furlongs they would run one-two," said Ezra. "They are class horses that know where the wire is."

Ashagio worked a bullet three furlongs in 34.10 seconds on Tuesday. Ashagio, 2003 horse of the meet, won eight races last year and is 1 for 2 this year.

Although Ezra said one would be the speed horse in the race and the other a closer, it appears that both do their best running in front.

Norris, meanwhile, has had his sights on the Expedite Plus since the meet opened. And he doesn't worry about the abundance of speed, even though his horse has shown a speed preference.

"Rundle doesn't have to on the lead," said Norris. "He's handy. He just sat on the outside of Krz Ruckus the whole way.

Brian Bochinski will ride Rundle.

Martin Ramirez, who took over the lead in the jockey standings last week from Francine Villeneuve, will be aboard Lucky Tec. Pat Trimble will again partner Ashagio.

Other runners in the field include 11-year-old Major Zee, Pinedale Star, Zores, and Splendid Western.