03/06/2006 12:00AM

Cause to Believe's goal lies beyond Cal Derby

Vassar Photography
A victory in Saturday's California Derby should propel Cause to Believe down the Triple Crown road.

ALBANY, Calif. - Cause to Believe, northern California's leading Kentucky Derby candidate, has not been nominated to the Triple Crown. But if Cause to Believe wins the $100,000 California Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer plans to make him a supplementary nominee.

Cause to Believe has five wins and three seconds in eight starts. His four stakes victories include the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby, for which he earned $137,500. He is undefeated around two turns. The El Camino victory gave the colt enough graded earnings to probably assure him of a spot in the Derby, and that means Hollendorfer can send him in the ungraded California Derby next instead of a tougher graded race.

The timing of the California Derby for 3-year-olds would allow Cause to Believe to run in a graded stakes and then the Kentucky Derby without Hollendorfer having to rush the colt.

Owner Peter Redekop recently sold part ownership of the Maria's Mon colt to Peter Abruzzo, but, according to Hollendorfer, neither is pressuring him to run the colt in the Derby. That much is obvious by Redekop's not nominating the colt originally.

Sixteen 3-year-olds were nominated to the 1 1/16-mile California Derby, but three - Latent Heat, Mister Triester, and Hawkinsville - ran third, fourth, and fifth behind Brother Derek in Saturday's Grade 2 Santa Catalina at Santa Anita, meaning they aren't likely to run.

Of the remaining 13 nominees, three are from the Hollendorfer barn. He will probably run Passive Income along with Cause to Believe.

Eight are from Bob Baffert's barn, including Point Determined, an allowance winner here on Feb. 17, and Wanna Runner, who was scratched from the Santa Catalina. Baffert said he plans to send two runners, but hasn't said which ones.

Three-year-olds will also be in the spotlight on Friday, when Barber - who has beaten everyone he's faced who isn't named Cause to Believe or Frisco Star - meets another would-be monster in Smokey Stover.

Small fields on Wednesday card

Wednesday's card has only seven races, four with fields of six and three with fields of five.

"I think it's the time of year," said racing secretary Sean Greely. "We've been running dirt races the past 10 weeks. If you look at Bay Meadows and here, there have been only a handful of turf races because of the weather. The weather has also affected training, and this is the time of year when some horses need a rest from year-round racing anyway."

A pair of $40,000 starter allowance races for 3-year-olds top the card. Star Quality, who graduated for a $32,000 tag in a comeback start, looms the one to beat in a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-old fillies.

Home Port and No Reverse renew their budding rivalry in a one-mile race.

Lost in the Fog, Sierra Sweetie work

Lost in the Fog and Sierra Sweetie both had bullet workouts last week.

Regular rider Russell Baze was aboard Lost in the Fog, who worked Saturday instead of Sunday for trainer Greg Gilchrist because of pending weather conditions.

The Eclipse Award sprint champion went in a steady 47.40 seconds without any real urging, recording a best-of-69 clocking while galloping out strongly.

Sierra Sweetie continued her preparation for the Grade 1 Ashland on April 8 at Keeneland with a 59.40-second five-furlong work on Friday before the races. Apprentice jockey Martin Garcia, who will likely get the call to ride her in the Ashland, was aboard as she put together a solid move for trainer Jeff Bonde. It was the fastest of 11 works at the distance.

* Baze was given a three-day suspension for his winning ride aboard Rocky Zone Lord in Saturday's first race, although the horse was not taken down after coming out in the stretch. He will miss March 12, 15, and 16.