01/12/2003 1:00AM

Cojet victorious in Colonel Power


NEW ORLEANS - Cojet won the first stakes of his career, jockey Shane Sellers won his second Fair Grounds stakes this weekend, and the odds-on favorite Bonapaw finished last in his bid to win the Colonel Power Handicap for the second year in a row.

Cojet got a perfect stalking trip under Sellers, who already has won five stakes at this meet and rode Prince Alphie to victory Saturday in the Black Gold Handicap. As a young horse, Cojet was speed crazy and often ran out of gas in the stretch run, but Sunday he settled down behind a swift pace and ran the stretch strongly.

When Cojet finished second here Dec. 22 in the Gaudin Handicap "he was like a time bomb," Sellers said. "He was ready to explode out there. He was a different horse today and I knew I could get him back."

Sellers said Cojet still will show early speed in the right spot, but Sunday he simply was outrun early in the six-furlong Colonel Power. Bonapaw, making his first start since Nov. 30, dueled with Gracie's Dancer through a quarter-mile in a suicidal 21.55 seconds and a half-mile in 44.81. For Bonapaw, who had not logged a time workout since returning to training after 30 days of farm rest, the pace was too much. Jockey Gerard Melancon said Bonapaw tired at about the quarter-pole, and Melancon let Bonapaw gallop through the stretch at his own pace. Bonapaw wound up last of six, beaten about 11 lengths by Cojet.

"It doesn't bother me at all," said co-owner Dennis Richard, who hopes to try Bonapaw at two turns in the Feb. 9 Whirlaway Handicap.

Cojet, who is owned by Dan Jones and trained by Bob Holthus, was a ball of energy in the post parade, but he settled into a good rhythm for Sellers, who kept the colt along the inside until the stretch run, then came off the rail looking for racing room. "The only question was finding room," Sellers said. "I got him a hole and he went through it."

Mountain General also was finishing well, looping to the outside leaving the turn and perhaps briefly taking the lead while Sellers hunted for his spot. Mountain General and Cojet briefly were on even terms, but Cojet was stronger in the final furlong and prevailed by three-quarters of a length, running six furlongs in a strong 1:09.66. Cojet paid $14.60 to win and earned $45,000 of the race's $75,000 pot. Kazoo finished third, followed by Talknow, Gracie's Dancer and Bonapaw.