02/08/2003 12:00AM

Fair Grounds: Fuse It does it

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NEW ORLEANS - The field in the Pan Zareta Handicap hit the far turn with four horses lined up on the lead. From where he sat on Fuse It, Gerard Melancon thought things looked pretty good.

Melancon and Fuse It waited for the speedballs to flame out, then slipped up the rail to nail Stonington - the last pace survivor - in the Pan Zareta's final half-furlong. Fuse It scored by a half-length, running six furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.62 and paying $24.80.

The price was an overlay, considering Fuse It had finished a close third in the allowance prep for the Pan Zareta, and two weeks ago in a Delta Downs stakes race was second to the crack regional sprinter Prized Amberpro. And had anyone known the Pan Zareta would set up like it did, Fuse It would have been considered the horse to beat.

"I had a beautiful trip," said Melancon, who picked up the mount on Fuse It on Saturday. "I knew the four horses in front of me were going at a pretty good pace."

Indeed, Stonington, Fleeta Dif, Distinctive Code, and Turner's Hall ran a quarter-mile in 22 seconds and a half in a testing 45.49. Distinctive Code, the favorite, was widest of all, and before the eighth pole she had given way to Stonington. Coming out of a first-level allowance win, Stonington didn't fit the Pan Zareta on class, but she was sharp Saturday, fighting off Fuse It for as long as she could before giving way in deep stretch.

Fuse It, a 5-year-old owned by Rowell Enterprises and trained by Sam Breaux, passed $200,000 in career earnings with the $45,000 winner's share of the Pan Zareta purse.