01/19/2003 1:00AM

Halo Cat wins Montclair Handicap

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ALBANY, Calif. - Halo Cat ($4.80) took advantage of a pace duel between El Dorado Shooter and Our Magistrate and made a strong move at the top of the stretch to capture the $ Montclair Handicap at Golden Gate Fields on Sunday.

Halo Cat defeated El Dorado Shooter by three lengths in the six-furlong race. His winning time of 1:07.62 was just off the track record of 1:07.55 set in the Montclair in 2001.

"We were hoping it would set up that way," winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said.

El Dorado Shooter raced just outside of Our Magistrate down the backstretch through an opening quarter of 21.53. He put his head in front after running the half in 43.56.

But he never got a breather as Halo Cat immediately challenged him and pulled away down the stretch.

"If (Our Magistrate) didn't show speed, El Dorado Shooter would have been out on a lonely lead," Hollendorfer said. "Russell (Baze, who rode Halo Cat) broke sharply but saw (Our Magistrate) was going and sat back."

Baze was impressed by the 5-year-old gelding.

"I was having to ride him to keep him close, but when I reached back and hit him, he jumped and took off. It was like, 'Wow, how much horse do I have.' "

Halo Cat earned $33,900 for his eighth career victory to lift his career earnings to $253,245 in 21 starts.