Updated on 09/17/2011 11:11AM

Berkeley tougher spot for Halo Cat

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ALBANY, Calif. - Halo Cat will face the toughest test of his career in Saturday's $100,000, Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap.

Not only is he running in a graded race for the first time, but he also has six strong rivals, including millionaire Western Pride, who would be making his first start since May 11 when he was 11th in the Grade 1 Singapore Airlines International Cup in Singapore.

Trainer James K. Chapman, unhappy with Western Pride's 120-pound weight assignment, said after entering that he still hadn't decided whether Western Pride would run.

If he runs, Western Pride, who drew the rail for the one-mile Berkeley, will have several challengers for the early lead, most notably I'madrifter and Rhetoric Express.

Also making a comeback is Palmeiro, third in last year's Berkeley and the winner of the Grade 3 All American at Bay Meadows last June. He will be making his first start since bleeding in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar last Aug. 4.

Halo Cat has run five times at the meeting, which ends Sunday. He has three stakes victories and seconds in his other two starts, both of which also came in stakes.

Jerry Hollendorfer has trained the 5-year-old Halo Cat since John Franks purchased him last summer after he recorded a 110 Beyer Speed Figure winning the Kings Court Stakes at Louisiana Downs on June 28. Franks sold part of Halo Cat to long-time Hollendorfer client Peter Abruzzo and to Rancho San Miguel.

"Mr. Franks bought the horse because he thought he might develop into a top sprinter at Arlington Park, and the Breeders' Cup was going to be there," said Hollendorfer, who has spent his past two summers at Arlington.

"It didn't work out."

Halo Cat returned to northern California with Hollendofer.

"Since he's been here he has been pretty good," Hollendorfer said.

Halo Cat won the six-furlong Albany Handicap and was a strong-finishing second to a sizzling El Dorado Shooter in the six-furlong Oakland Handicap.

Although regarded as primarily a sprinter, Halo Cat was second to runaway winner I'madrifter, one of Saturday's foes, in the one-mile Lafayette Handicap on New Year's Day.

He turned the tables on El Dorado Shooter in the six-furlong Montclair Handicap and whizzed by I'madrifter at the head of the stretch to win the one-mile San Carlos in his last start.

He earned a career-best 112 Beyer in the Montclair and a 109 in the San Carlos. Not bad for a runner who has a 390 Tomlinson (rating for distance preference) at six furlongs but only 295 at one mile.

"I thought he could always run a mile, and the horse is doing well," Hollendorfer said. "There are some Southern California horses coming in, but it's going to take a great number to beat him."

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