01/03/2003 12:00AM

Lakenheath rebounds


NEW ORLEANS - Lakenheath, the obvious favorite Friday in the $75,000 Truly Bound Handicap at Fair Grounds, got a perfect stalking trip behind two speed horses and scored a half-length win over the 11-1 shot Bala. A 3-5 favorite, Lakenheath paid $3.20 to win, running 1 1/16 miles on fast dirt in 1:45.48.

For Lakenheath, trained by Gene Cilio, it was her second Fair Grounds stakes win (she won the Grade 3 Silverbulletday here two seasons ago) and a sharp form reversal from her most recent start, a 22-length loss in the Grade 1 Spinster at Keeneland. The competition Friday was much easier, though on paper it seemed like Lakenheath might have to catch a horse who would get loose on the lead, Pretty Gale. But Swinging Gate broke sharply and made Pretty Gale work for the lead

If Lakenheath needed any help, this mild pace duel gave it to her. Jockey Robby Albarado let Lakenheath range up to the speed horses turning for home, and she took the lead with minimal urging. Bala and Took Out had shots at her in the stretch, but neither was good enough and Lakenheath was clearly in front at the wire. The race for second was much closer, with Bala home by a neck over Took Out.