02/21/2004 1:00AM

Tonight Rainbow wins Grasmick; 'Plum' 4th

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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. - Tonight Rainbow proved too much in the stretch as he battled outside Herewegoagain and then edged clear late to capture Saturday's $10,875 Grasmick Handicap at Fonner Park, ending Leaping Plum's hopes of capturing a ninth edition of the half-mile race.

Leaping Plum, racing at the age of 13 on a day named in honor by the track, lacked his usual energy in the stretch and settled for fourth, beaten 6 3/4 lengths while making his 10th consecutive start in the Grasmick. He won this race seven consecutive times from 1995-2001 and then returned as a 12-year-old to capture the Grasmick for an eighth time last year.

Tonight Rainbow, last year's sprinter of meet here, opened his 2004 campaign on a strong note while covering the four furlongs in 45.20 seconds over a fast track. Ridden by Curtis Kimes for trainer Boyd Caster, Tonight Rainbow edged away for a 1 1/4 length win and returned $4.40 as the 6-5 favorite in a field of eight. Herewegoagain held second, four lengths in front of Tate's Way in third.