11/24/2001 1:00AM

Unlikely 14-1 shot wins Old Hickory


NEW ORLEANS - Lead by Example, an improbable winner based on his form, rallied in the stretch to narrowly win the Old Hickory Stakes on a rainy Saturday at Fair Grounds.

Winless in five starts since taking a $50,000 maiden claimer more than five months ago at Churchill Downs, Lead by Example refused to let the Louisiana-bred Walk in the Snow pass after the pair converged inside the sixteenth pole, winning by a neck in a driving finish.

Lead by Example, a 2-year-old Birdonthewire colt owned by Bill Schettini and trained by Josie Carroll, paid $31.20 to win. He ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:05.

The pace in the Old Hickory was torrid, with Ammodio battling Halo of Hearts through a quarter-mile in 21.61 seconds and a half-mile in 45.60. Those splits were too taxing on a wet track that hadn't produced especially fast times, and the front-runners were collared shortly after turning for home.

Lead by Example, who had run in three straight route races, was outrun early in the race.

With jockey Kirk Leblanc saving ground from post 1, he began rallying on the far turn, with Walk in the Snow just to his outside, and split horses after turning for home. Walk in the Snow went outside the tiring speed and the two hooked up for their battle to the wire.

Far Away Bell, who moved to the lead in midstretch, held on well to finish a clear third. The 2-1 favorite, Lunar Bounty, close to the fast pace, faded to finish eighth.