Following his impressive win in Saturday's $100,000 California Derby at Golden Gate, Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) contender Cause to Believe is likely to make a visit to Hawthorne for the $500,000 Illinois Derby (gr. II) on April 8.
"At this point, we're about 75 percent sure we're coming to Hawthorne," trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said after the Cal Derby. "That was my plan even before Peter Abruzzo came aboard. I like the timing of the race and, if we can keep the horse sound, the Illinois Derby is probably next."
Following Cause to Believe's win in the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) at Bay Meadows Jan. 29, Chicago native Abruzzo, 48, purchased 25% of the Maria's Mon
-Imaginary Cat (by Storm Cat
) colt for an undisclosed amount. A longtime supporter of Illinois racing, Abruzzo pioneered the Modern Tuxedo chain of rental stores in the Chicago region and Indiana. He sold the company to Federated in 2003, but still serves as a consultant.
"Horses like this rarely come around," Abruzzo said of his purchase. "This is what everyone who owns, breeds, and trains horses is waiting for."
An owner of stakes winners throughout the years, including Sharp Drums and Illinois Champion Barely Makin It, Abruzzo got his first taste of the Triple Crown in 2002 when his USS Tinosa, also trained by Hollendorfer, finished sixth behind War Emblem in the 2002 Preakness (gr. I).
"We were 21st on the list to get into the Kentucky Derby, and only 20 are eligible to start, so we missed by one horse," recalled Abruzzo, who currently resides in Long Grove, Illinois. "With the points we already have in the bank from the El Camino Real, that won't happen to us again this year."
Cause to Believe, a winner of six of nine races in his career - including five stakes victories - is not Triple Crown eligible. But the connections, which include part-owner Peter Redekop, are expected to fork up the $6,000 late nomination fee prior to the March 25 deadline.
"That's a forgone conclusion," Hollendorfer said.