12/22/2002 1:00AM

Kazoo upsets Gaudin and the bridge jumpers

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NEW ORLEANS ? Kazoo blew past his two speed rivals just strides out of the gate, and by the time anyone got close to him Sunday's Gaudin Handicap was long over. Kazoo ($19.20) had never won a stakes race, but he won the $75,000 Gaudin on Sunday at Fair Grounds by two lengths, setting a stakes record of 1:09.38 for six furlongs.

Bridge jumpers took a bad beat in the Gaudin when Mountain General finished fourth, well beaten by Kazoo but part of a blanket finish for second. In the end, his late rally fell a nose short of third, and the vast show wagering on Mountain General, a 1-2 favorite, inflated show payoffs. Kazoo paid $29.80 to show; place horse Cojet paid $16 to show; and third-place finisher Gracie's Dancer returned $44.20.

Mountain General didn't have the same overpowering stretch rally that earned him an easy win and a six-furlong track record here in the Thanksgiving Day Handicap. A slower pace Sunday was at least partially responsible, and at the same time it dampened Mountain General's chances, it benefited Kazoo.

Owned by Gary and Mary West and trained by Dallas Stewart, Kazoo hadn't raced since finishing fifth Oct. 12 in a Keeneland allowance race. He was much sharper Sunday, jumping straight into the race under Robby Albarado while setting splits of 22.26 seconds for a quarter-mile and 45.53 for a half.

"He broke well on the outside and got clear early," Albarado said. "The slow second quarter definitely helped."

Cojet and Gracie's Dancer tried to make runs at Kazoo turning for home, but the winner got away from the field at the stretch call and had no troubled holding off the pursuers. Mountain General rallied belatedly up the rail and swung wide for the final 50 yards, but he was too late.