Still More Cause to Believe in California Derby

Launching an impressive bid on the turn for home, odds-on choice Cause to Believe rallied from last to register an easy victory over his four rivals in Saturday's $100,000 California Derby for 3-year-olds at Golden Gate Fields.

Ridden by Russell Baze, a relaxed Cause to Believe fell eight lengths off the early pace set by Sinister Minister and Martin Garcia and stayed there before getting a wake-up call on the far turn. Once in gear, the son of Maria's Mon rallied well along the rail and overpowered his rivals, sweeping past Sinister Minister on the outside under brief whipping at the furlong pole and going on to a four-length victory under an aggressive handling by Baze. The final time for the 1 1/16-mile Cal Derby was a good 1:41 on a track rated fast but still drying out from heavy rains the preceding two days.

Cause to Believe, a $30,000 Ocala buy one year ago, is not nominated to the Triple Crown. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer bought the colt before selling him to partners Peter Abruzzo and Peter Redekop BC Ltd. after winning the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) Jan. 29 at Bay Meadows. Hollendorfer said after the race that the owners would spend the $6,000 to nominate Cause to Believe, who is expectd to run next in the Illinois Derby (gr. II) on April 8.

"What impresses me is that this horse has done it in a lot of different ways and today he came from well out of it," Hollendorfer said. "I don't think you've seen his best yet."

The gray/roan, bred in Kentucky by Overbrook Farm out of the Storm Cat mare Imaginary Cat, has never been worse than second in nine starts, including six victories. He earned $55,000 to bump his bankroll to $335,565.

Making his fourth career start, the Bob Baffert-trained Sinister Minister was rank early but settled down on the backstretch and widened his lead to 3 1/2 lengths coming off the turn while setting lively fractions of :22, :45 1/5 and 1:09. Set down in the stretch with his challenger gaining quickly, Sinister Minister hit the rail at the three-sixteenths pole and again nearing the furlong marker to lose his advantage.

"I saw the other horse close to the rail so I moved out a little to give myself some room in case anything happened and, sure enough, it did," Baze said. "But I was going to gather him in anyway, I felt. I knuckled him and he started to pick it up on his own and when I asked him in the stretch he went on real well. He's developing into a real nice horse."

After straightening from there, Sinister Minister regained his stride to finish 14 lengths ahead of show horse The Five J's, who was a nose better than Passive Income. Pop Icon was last in a field reduced to five by the scratches of Racketeer and Sky Diving.

"He was going great and he wasn't tired but when he saw the rail he tried to go over it," said Garcia of the runner-up. "After I got him settled, he was coming back on. I don't know why he did it."

Cause to Believe paid $3, $2.20, and $2.10. Sinister Minister returned $2.20 and $2.10. The Five J's was $2.10 to show.

(Chart, Equibase)