03/21/2004 12:00AM

Christmas Time wins Soviet Problem

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ALBANY, Calif. - Christmas Time ($9.20) broke sharply, dueled Pheiffer into submission and continued on to score a victory in the $55,400 Soviet Problem Handicap at Golden Gate Fields on Sunday.

The 4-year-old filly broke sharply and dueled head-and-head with Pheiffer, who had just won the Richmond Handicap. Christmas Time had Pheiffer pinned to the rail as the two dueled to the top of the lane.

As Pheiffer faded, Christmas Time repelled the challenge of Devil Dancing and opened up. Favored Annabelly closed for second but never threatened the winner, who was clear by 1 1/2 lengths, winning the six-furlong race in 1:09.33.

"We just wanted her to get going early," winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. "I just wanted Russell (Baze) to keep after her early."

Christmas Time, who won the Emeryville Handicap last spring at Bay Meadows, had run third to Pheiffer in the Richmond after beating her when second to Ema Bovary in the Orinda Handicap. In the Richmond, Christmas Time was far off the pace early.

"She came out of there wanting to run so I just let her go," Baze said. "I gave her her head, and she was doing it on her own."

Ron Warren Jr. was disappointed after finishing last aboard Pheiffer.

"Usually, she'll fight them tooth and nail but not today. She didn't run her race, that's for sure."

Christmas Time earned $30,650 for her fifth win in 14 starts. She has now earned $176,303.