Haskin's Weekend Preview: Believe in Cal Derby

The California Derby is not known as a spawning ground for Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winners, and if the expected rain hits the San Francisco area and Racketeer is scratched, that likely will leave only Cause to Believe who has a legitimate shot at the Run for the Roses.

A victory by Cause to Believe, one of the most versatile and consistent horses in the country, would move the son of Maria's Mon forward on the Derby trail, but would not tell us any more about the colt than we already know.

Racketeer, who is one of the six horses entered against him in the 1 1/16-mile race, looks to be an emerging star who should relish the stretch-out to two turns. But trainer Bobby Frankel said the colt likely will be scratched and point instead for the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) March 18. The son of Awesome Again  has run some huge races against very fast horses at six furlongs, a distance that looks to be way too short for him. The fact that he has run so well makes him one to keep an eye on.

But with him out, the focus will be on Cause to Believe, who has never been worse than second in eight career starts, racing at six different distances from 4 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, his next likely target will be the Illinois Derby (gr. II) Apr. 8.

His two main opponents will be his own stablemate, Passive Income, who is coming off a good second to Point Determined in a one-mile allowance/optional claimer, in which he was beaten 1 1/2 lengths. The son of High Yield finished fourth behind Cause to Believe in the Mill Valley Stakes last November.

Bob Baffert will be represented by Sky Diving and Sinister Minister, if he decides to run both. Sky Diving has the best chance coming off a 14-length maiden score at Bay Meadows and a second in the Turf Paradise Derby, in which he got hung very wide from the outside post and dueled through rapid fractions only to give way in the final furlong to Keagan. Baffert will remove the blinkers for this race.

Sinister Minister broke his maiden for a $62,500 claiming tag before finishing up the track in the San Vicente Stakes (gr. II). Of the other two starters, Pop Icon is a maiden with only one start and The Five J's looked to have a good deal of promise following seconds to Wanna Runner and Bob and John in allowance company, but he's been running mainly every two to three weeks since October and appears to have lost his form.

There is an interesting allowance race on Saturday's Gulfstream card that features talented 3-year-olds Showing Up, Chatain, Big Lover, Throng, and Flanders Fields. The last named was highly touted last year, but was sidelined with a minor injury after a pair of disappointing efforts. The son of A.P. Indy out of Flanders has been working sharply for his return for trainer Dallas Stewart.

Showing Up and Chatain are coming off brilliant maiden victories in their career debuts and Throng is looking to bounce back from a poor effort against Corinthian in an allowance race. Big Lover is coming off a solid third behind Strong Contender is a swiftly run allowance race.

At Oaklawn, keep an eye on Jolted and Jostled in an allowance race. The John Servis-trained son of Storm Cat out of Jostle was impressive breaking his maiden at Oaklawn, but bled in his second start and should rebound with a big effort in here.