12/04/2002 1:00AM

Halo Cat taking to locale


ALBANY, Calif. - When Plan A didn't work for Halo Cat this summer, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer went to Plan B and saw the gelding win his northern California debut.

Plan B will continue Saturday at Golden Gate Fields when Halo Cat will attempt to duplicate his Nov. 9 Albany Handicap victory in the $60,000-added Oakland Handicap at six furlongs.

John Franks purchased Halo Cat this summer after he won four straight races in Texas and Louisiana. The fourth, the Kings Court Handicap at Louisiana Downs by 4 1/4 lengths, earned Halo Cat a Beyer Speed Figure of 110.

Franks told Hollendorfer he was willing to go into partnership on the horse, so Hollendorfer got longtime client Peter Abruzzo and Rancho San Miguel to go in on Halo Cat.

When Franks bought him, said Hollendorfer, "we believed he was a good prospect. The thought was we'd take him to Chicago and see if he was good enough for the Breeders' Cup.

"We wanted to try to develop a horse that had shown a lot."

Halo Cat ran second in his first start for Hollendorfer, a $100,000 optional claimer at Arlington Park on July 21.

He came back in the Arlington Park Sprint Handicap against Bonapaw on Aug. 24, never saw the lead, and was no threat, fading to last.

That led to Plan B: a freshener and a trip to northern California.

Halo Cat found himself third early in a three-way speed duel in the Albany.

"When he was there between horses, and the jockey was waiting, I wanted him to go on," Hollendorfer said. "That's not where I wanted to be, but sometimes jockeys have a feel for the race as it develops."

Apprentice rider Francisco Duran was aboard Halo Cat, who took the lead at the eighth pole and drew off to a 2 1/4-length victory

"He is one of the nicest horses I've been on in a race," said Duran, who has one other stakes victory.

"I didn't expect to be in a duel like that, but he was running comfortably, and he had a good kick. He sure kept battling."

Saturday's race is likely to bring out many familiar faces, including Radar Contact, Profound Secret, and Beyond Brilliant from the Albany, as well as El Dorado Shooter and Furtivo, who placed in a Grade 2 sprint in his native Argentina and will be making his second U.S. start.

Hollendorfer has also nominated USS Tinosa, who was on the Triple Crown trail earlier this year, but he said the colt was "doubtful" for this race.

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