10/20/2001 12:00AM

Storm Cruiser's short stay was profitable

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FORT ERIE, Ont. - Armand Concessi was shocked and disappointed when he learned that he had lost Storm Cruiser in a $62,500 optional claiming race at Woodbine on Thursday.

The Fort Erie trainer had risked entering Storm Cruiser, a 5-year-old gelding, in the turf race after he was unable to find a suitable race at his home track. Just 10 days earlier Storm Cruiser had captured Fort Erie's $50,000 Bridgeburg Stakes.

Storm Cruiser finished fourth in Thursday's race, picking up $3,708 for his effort, which came up just a little more than a length short.

Storm Cruiser was claimed by Richard Englander, the leading owner in North America in both number of victories (327) and stable earnings ($8.06 million). Storm Cruiser will now be trained by Mike Wright Jr., the second leading trainer at Woodbine.

Storm Cruiser had a short but sensational stay with Concessi, who claimed him for $14,000 at Fort Erie on Sept.3. Concessi spotted potential when Storm Cruiser finished a closing fifth to the top sprinter, Deputy Carson, in his previous start Aug. 20. Storm Cruiser had been sent to Fort Erie after six unplaced 2001 sprint starts at levels from $20,000 to $25,000. Three of the races had been at Calgary, one at Winnipeg, and two at Woodbine. His earnings this year during the pre-Concessi period were a meager $2,510.

Responding to his new surroundings, Storm Cruiser rattled off three straight wins, including the stakes score. On Sept. 29, his 13 1/2-length victory in a $20,000 starter-allowance at 1 1/16 miles earned him a Beyer Speed Figure of 107. His previous lifetime high was an 82.

"I didn't do anything special when I got him," said Concessi. "I just ran him longer and tried him on the turf."

Concessi's initial disappointment at Storm Cruiser being claimed has now been replaced by a deep satisfaction. The horse earned more than $79,000 in purses during the short spell and was claimed for $48,500 more than his purchase price.