03/23/2002 1:00AM

Madame Pietra wins stakes debut


ALBANY, Calif. - Madame Pietra ($7.40) made a strong move on the turn to take command and pulled away down the lane to win the $60,550 Soviet Problem Handicap at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday.

The 5-year-old mare defeated Fancee Bargain by 2.5 lengths, winning the six-furlong race in 1:09.21.

"She did everything (trainer Howard Zucker) said she'd do from loading in the gate to the finish," winning jockey Joey Castro said. "She relaxed down the backstretch. I tapped her at the 5/16ths, and when she started her rally, I just kept her running."

Zucker helped Castro get his hot walker's license and later his exercise rider's license 20 years ago at Gulfstream Park. He said it was the first race Castro had ever won for him.

Madame Pietra has now won three of 10 starts and increased her career earnings to $117,870.