05/14/2002 11:00PM

Shift to dirt would aid Exciting Story

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Exciting Story, victorious in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont last spring, is among the 13 entrants in Friday's feature, the first turf event of the Woodbine meet.

The $80,900 allowance is the prep for the May 25 Connaught Cup Stakes, but because of all the recent rain in the Toronto area, and with more in the forecast this week, it is questionable whether the seven-furlong dash will stay on the grass.

The last time Exciting Story competed on turf, in a one-mile allowance here last June 30, he finished fifth as the heavy favorite. His regular rider, Patrick Husbands, said Exciting Story ran greenly that day and simply didn't fire after stalking the early pace along the rail.

"He was a little scared of the horses on the outside of him going down the backstretch," Husbands said. "He didn't get his action together and never got the chance to do anything."

Exciting Story, a 5-year-old, was disqualified from an easy victory in his final 2-year-old outing here in the Grey Stakes. He suffered a serious injury in that Grade 1 race, and was off for nine months heading into his only other turf experience, an optional claimer in July 2000, in which he finished 3 1/2 lengths back in fifth.

Exciting Story is surprisingly winless since the Met Mile last May, but he exhibited signs of life in his most recent outing, finishing second to Wake at Noon in the Grade 3 Vigil Handicap, a race he won impressively in 2001.

Exciting Story should be favored if the proceedings are moved to the main track, but Gone Fishin will likely be the chalk if the race remains on the grass.

Gone Fishin, a 6-year-old, who won the Grade 3 Jaipur Handicap in 2000, spent the winter at the Fair Grounds, where he ran second in a $100,000 optional claimer Feb. 17. Curiously, trainer Todd Pletcher ran him back for just $50,000 a month later, and watched him score by five lengths.

Trainer Mike Doyle claimed Gone Fishin from the $50,000 race, and then sent him out to finish fourth in the Shakertown Stakes at Keeneland. Most recently in the Grade 3 Aegon Turf Sprint Stakes at Churchill, Gone Fishin rallied wide to finish just a half-length back in third.

Completing the fifth-race lineup will be Dawn Watcher, Wide Release, Speed Gun, Academic, Legal Jousting, Queensgate, Steady Ruckus, River Delights, and Cracker's Folly.

Highland Legacy and Harty Congrats were entered for the main track only.

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