01/17/2002 12:00AM

'Shooter' a work short?

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ALBANY, Calif. - A field of 11, headed by defending champion and track record-holder El Dorado Shooter, will meet in the $55,000-added Montclair Handicap at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday.

El Dorado Shooter won last year's Montclair and set a track record with a 1:07.55 clocking for the six furlongs. He dueled outside Waki American for the first half mile, put him away and defeated Roaring Red by 1 1/2 lengths.

El Dorado Shooter, making his first start since a disappointing third-place finish in the Saratoga Handicap on May 26 at Bay Meadows, will be the highweight at 120 pounds, spotting rivals from three to nine pounds.

Also entered are Radar Contact and Rio Oro, who finished a head apart in the Dec. 1 Albany Handicap also a six furlongs. Radar Contact pulled off a $41.40 upset that day. Secret Launch, third in the Albany, is also entered Saturday.

Rounding out the field are Contexte, Takin It Deep, Gibson County, Mellow Fellow, Kinetic Bend, Strike for Glory, and Tony's Royalty.

El Dorado Shooter drew the rail, but he is a definite speedster who would be gunning early anyway.

"That's the shortest way home," jockey Chad Schvaneveldt said.

El Dorado Shooter has put together an impressive string of works for him comeback, but ever-cautious trainer Cliff Delima said, "He's just about ready. I'd like to get another work into him."

Schvaneveldt has been working the 5-year-old gelding El Dorado Shooter in preparation for his comeback and agrees another work would be nice.

"I've worked him four or five times, and he's working really good," Schvaneveldt said. "With all the rain [from late December through early January], he missed a work, but, hopefully, that won't be significant.

"When he worked at Bay Meadows [a bullet 57-second-flat five-furlong work on Jan. 5], he galloped out nine and change, and I kept him going for seven-eighths. I knew I was going fast, but it was like being in a racecar. He just cruised by horses.

"When he worked here [a bullet 58.40 on Jan. 12 at Golden Gate Fields], I chirped at him after so he'd keep going. Hopefully, that will have him ready.

"I worked him when he was a 2-year-old, and I thought he was good. With age, he's improved. He does things with no effort at all now."

Delima said he opted to run Saturday because the next sprint at Golden Gate Fields is the $100,000 Ken Maddy Sprint on Feb. 23.

"It ain't going to hurt him to run," Delima said. "If we didn't run here, it would be another month. Nowadays, you just got to run when they come up."

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