04/09/2006 11:00PM

Cause to Believe's connections still optimistic

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ALBANY, Calif. - Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and jockey Russell Baze were disappointed by Cause to Believe's third-place finish in Saturday's Illinois Derby, but both said they believe the colt would be a contender should owners Peter Redekop and Peter Abruzzo decide to run in the Kentucky Derby.

Hollendorfer said he feels there are three legitimate favorites for the Derby: West Coast star Brother Derek, unbeaten Barbaro, and Lawyer Ron. He said he thinks that Cause to Believe, who was scheduled to fly home to Golden Gate Fields on Tuesday, is better than his showing in the Illinois Derby, in which he finished 10 1/4 lengths in back of the winner, Sweetnorthernsaint.

Hollendorfer said the slow pace worked against the late-running Cause to Believe.

"The same thing happened in the Santa Anita Derby when they let Brother Derek set a slow pace," he said. "Russell rode great. He sensed what was happening and put the colt closer early."

Baze said he felt he should have finished ahead of runner-up Mister Triester.

"I thought we could have beaten [Mister Triester], but I was trying to win and started moving a little sooner because we couldn't let the winner get away from us," he said.

Sweetnorthernsaint pulled away from everyone late, but Cause to Believe finished as well as anyone else.

Hollendorfer said the colt came out of the race fine.

"I planned to bring him back here after the race and stay at home at least two weeks," Hollendorfer said. "I would have done that even if he won by 25 lengths."

In 1998, Hollendorfer left Event of the Year, the possible Derby favorite, in Kentucky after he won the Jim Beam, while the trainer came back to California. An injury eight days before the Derby prevented Event of the Year from running in the Derby, and since then Hollendorfer has sent all his Derby horses back to northern California to train.

Redekop, still the majority owner despite selling part of the colt to Abruzzo, has never expressed much interest in the Derby and didn't even spend $600 to nominate Cause to Believe originally. He was a late nominee at a cost of $6,000.

Hollendorfer seems interested in giving Cause to Believe a chance in the Derby because he knows the pace will be faster and more conducive to Cause to Believe's closing style.

Baze did win one stakes at Hawthorne on Saturday when the Greg Gilchrist-trained Victorina pulled away in the stretch for an easy 3 3/4-length victory in the $112,400 Meafara Stakes.

Lost in the Fog goes fast in four-furlong work

Baze came back to the Bay Area on Saturday in order to work Lost in the Fog on Sunday.

The Eclipse-winning sprinter last year, Lost in the Fog rolled four furlongs out of the gate in 46.40 seconds, the fastest work of 47 runners by 1.60 seconds.

"Greg told me to ask him a bit if he was handling the track," Baze said. "He breaks so hard, the ground just breaks from under him. He kind of scrambled a little bit leaving there, but he quickly gathered himself and was straight as a string."

Gilchrist plans a five-furlong work in company next weekend as Lost in the Fog's final preparation for his return to action in the Golden Gate Fields Sprint on April 22.

Gilchrist's assistant, Linda Thrash, supervised the work while Gilchrist was returning from Chicago.

"He did great," said Thrash. She had her hands full as usual with Lost in the Fog, who was still rambunctious after the work. "The only thing is he's mad because he didn't get to do more."

Thirteen horses have been nominated for the six-furlong Golden Gate Fields Sprint, including Carthage, who has won three straight, including a pair of stakes.

Not even riders knew who won

Press Camp and Bai and Bai put on the best stretch duel of the meet in Saturday's San Ramon Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. Press Camp won by the narrowest of noses in a race both her jockey, Dennis Carr, and Bai and Bai's rider, Roberto Gonzalez, said they believed Bai and Bai had won.

"When we came back and the number flashed on the board, I looked down at my saddlecloth, and that's when I realized I'd won," said Carr, who actually congratulated Gonzalez as the two galloped out after the race.

It was a game effort for both horses, and they will probably meet again in the $200,000 Melair at 1 1/16 miles on Gold Rush Day at Hollywood Park on April 30.

* Former assistant clerk of scales Chuck Thompson died recently in Missouri at age 79. He grew up in a racing family and was a jockey before becoming a racing official.

* Cut the Mustard, Classically Lit, and Gotta Go Gal, the top three finishers in their last meeting, renew their rivalry in Wednesday's feature, a $50,000 optional claimer for fillies and mares at six furlongs.