11/10/2002 1:00AM

Halo Cat captures Albany Handicap

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ALBANY, Calif. - Halo Cat ($7.40), part of a three-way pace duel early, took over in the stretch and pulled away from a strong field in the $63,650 Albany Handicap at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday.

Halo Cat was three wide outside of I'madrifter and stablemate Metatron through a 21.75 opening quarter on a track labeled "good." I'madrifter maintained his advantage through the opening half, but Halo Cat under apprentice jockey Francisco Duran put his head in front at the eighth pole and won the six furlong race by 2? (two one-quarter) lengths over San Nicolas with late-running Radar Contact third another head back. Winning time was 1:09.42.

Winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said John Franks purchased the 4-year-old gelding after his win in the Kings Court Stakes at Louisiana Downs on June 28 that earned a 110 Beyer.

He finished second but recorded a 100 Beyer in his first start for Hollendorfer at Arlington Park but was last in his next start behind Bonapaw.

"That was tough," Hollendorfer said of the race against Bonapaw on Aug. 24. "He needed some time but responded pretty well. He worked 11 (a bullet 1:11.20 on Oct. 20) at Bay Meadows and has been working well."

Hollendorfer said he told Duran to go for the lead. "Today, everything was (winning) up front so I told the kid to send him."

Duran said he got good position early and tried not to over ride his mount.

"He really kicked in when he switched leads in the stretch and really responded to the left-handed whip," Duran said.

Halo Cat, who is owned in partnership by Franks, Peter Abruzzo and Rancho San Miguel, earned $33,090 to lift his career earnings to $191,485 with seven wins in 18 starts.