01/04/2004 12:00AM

Golden Sonata notches first stakes

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Lou Hodges, Jr.
Golden Sonata gets up to edge Spirited Maiden by a half-length in the $60,000 Truly Bound Handicap at Fair Grounds on Sunday.

NEW ORLEANS - Bunky Richards started training Golden Sonata about 10 days ago, and jockey Gerard Melancon was an eleventh-hour replacement. The timing was perfect. Golden Sonata scored her first stakes win Sunday at Fair Grounds, beating Spirited Maiden by a half-length in the $60,000 .

Spirited Maiden edged Whiletheiron'shot for second, while favored Ifyouprefersilver tired in the stretch and checked in seventh. Golden Sonata paid $16.20 to win, and ran one and one-sixteenth miles in 1:45.25.

A Mr. Prospector homebred owned by Jim Spence, Golden Sonata began her career in Europe, and showed talent when she first started racing in this country two seasons ago. Her form went up and down, but she never won a stakes while campaigning in Kentucky, Florida, and New York, and that is why Spence sent her to Fair Grounds and Richards last month.

"I've only had her about two weeks," said Richards, who trains a stable filled mainly with statebred horses. "I just treated her like my Louisiana-breds."

Melancon picked up Golden Sonata even later. Corey Lanerie was supposed to ride, but took off his mounts Sunday, still sore from a Saturday spill. Shane Sellers was named as a replacement, but declined to ride, leaving the mount to Melancon.

"He gave her a perfect ride," said Spence.

Golden Sonata broke from the outside post in a field of 11, but Melancon crossed over to the inside before the first turn, settling in 10th place around the turn and down the backstretch. On the front end, Golden Sonata came through on the inside to set fractions of 23.83 seconds for a quarter-mile and 47.91 for a half, but she could not shake free from Whiletheiron'shot. The leaders pushed hard around the far turn, with Ifyouprefersilver tiring at the top of the stretch, just as Golden Sonata began rolling. Melancon kept her inside until a hole opened in midstretch, then switched to the outside and ran down Spirited Maiden and Whiletheiron'shot for the victory.

"The main thing they told me was not to get her stopped," Melancon said. "I took a gamble on the inside, and it worked out."