02/15/2002 1:00AM

This time, it sets up for Cat Cay


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - A hotter pace and an extra furlong allowed Cat Cay to avenge a loss last month to Raging Fever, as Cat Cay defeated Raging Fever by a neck in Friday's $100,000 Shirley Jones Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

Cat Cay and Pat Day, her jockey, made a charge from last to first in a field of seven in the Grade 3 sprint. Raging Fever, who fought on bravely after being tested early, finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of Vague Memory.

Cat Cay went off the second choice at 8-5 and paid $5.40 to win after covering seven furlongs in 1:22.31. Raging Fever was the 6-5 favorite, based on her victory over Cat Cay in the First Lady Handicap here Jan. 18.

But the race shape was far different in the Shirley Jones than in the First Lady. Raging Fever got away with fractions of 22 seconds and 45 for the first half-mile in the six-furlong First Lady. In the seven-furlong Shirley Jones, Raging Fever was pressured by Tugger and forced to run her opening quarter mile in 21.79 seconds and the half in 44.09.

"We got our pace today, and the racetrack is tighter," winning trainer Shug McGaughey said. "Usually the pace going three-quarters is faster than the pace at seven-eighths."

Cat Cay, a 5-year-old Pleasant Colony mare who was bred and is owned by Ogden Phipps, has now won 8 of 21 starts, including three of her last four. McGaughey said Cat Cay would be kept around one turn. Her next start will likely be the Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct, McGaughey said.