03/09/2006 12:00AM

Cal Derby favorite eyes bigger things

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ALBANY, Calif. - Cause to Believe will try and take an important step to the Kentucky Derby when he meets six rivals in the $100,000 on Saturday at Golden Gate Fields.

Cause to Believe, who will be heavily favored, will be nominated to the Kentucky Derby if he wins Saturday's 1 1/16-mile race.

He has 5 wins and 3 seconds in 8 starts, including four stakes victories, and is undefeated in two tries around two turns.

His victory in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby in his last start was worth $137,500, which should assure him a spot in the Kentucky Derby field should it overfill.

Cause to Believe is owned by Peter Redekop and Peter Abruzzo, and according to the colt's trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, Redekop doesn't want to run in the Kentucky Derby unless he has a realistic chance to win it.

The trip to Kentucky could continue through the Illinois Derby if Cause to Believe wins the California Derby, Hollendorfer said.

"We need to not look past the California Derby," he said. "We're looking to get a good race in him and, of course, to win it."

Hollendorfer has considered Cause to Believe worthy of Kentucky Derby consideration for some time, but he is going about it patiently.

"We need races in between what your ultimate goal is," Hollendorfer said. "If he can win on Saturday, it makes the ultimate goal worth pursuing."

Hollendorfer liked Cause to Believe's looks and pedigree when he purchased him for $30,000 at Ocala, Fla., last March.

By Maria's Mon, Cause to Believe unleashed a powerful finishing kick in sprints as a 2-year-old and has shown a big closing move in his route races.

"When the horse made his exciting finishes and was running on late very strong, we thought the horse might have some potential," Hollendorfer said.

Some late hustling by the Golden Gate Fields racing office attracted several last-minute additions to what seemed for a while to be only a four-horse field for the California Derby. But the addition of Sky Diving, Racketeer and The Five J's may only make Cause to Believe's task that much easier.

Each of the three has speed, ensuring an honest pace and preventing Sinister Minister from being alone on the lead.

The likely pace scenario plays right into Cause to Believe's strength, and could help his stablemate, Passive Income, as well.