03/13/2006 1:00AM

Hollendorfer may get another whiff of roses

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ALBANY, Calif. - Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer hasn't had the best of luck in the Kentucky Derby, but he appears Louisville-bound with Cause to Believe, impressive winner of Saturday's California Derby.

Hollendorfer has trained two Kentucky Oaks winners, Lite Light and Pike Place Dancer, but his Derby experiences have not been nearly as pleasant.

In 1998, he had the likely favorite in undefeated Event of the Year, but eight days before the Derby the colt suffered a knee fracture.

In 2000, Globalize was entered, but one day after the draw, he was kicked by the stable pony. The resulting cut to his hock required stitches and prompted his scratch from the race.

Finally, in 2003, a Hollendorfer trainee made the race: Eye of the Tiger, who finished fifth.

Hollendorfer refuses to compare Cause to Believe's ability to that of his previous Derby hopefuls, but he says the others were "not as far along as he is."

A $30,000 2-year-old purchase at Ocala last March, Cause to Believe is a son of Maria's Mon and the third foal out of the unraced Storm Cat mare Imaginary Cat. Her first two foals failed to distinguish themselves.

Cause to Believe's final time of 1:41.07 in the California Derby is the fastest 1 1/16-mile clocking of the current Golden Gate Fields meeting. Cause to Believe improved his record to 6 wins and 3 seconds in 9 starts. He has won five stakes and is undefeated around two turns. His career earnings are now $335,565.

Hollendorfer says the colt will be supplemented to the Kentucky Derby for $6,000 and will make his next start in the April 8 Illinois Derby.

"The timing is right, and that has been the path to the Derby before," he said.

In 2002, War Emblem won both the Illinois and Kentucky derbies. The last three Illinois Derby winners all raced in the Kentucky Derby: Greeley's Galaxy finished 11th last year, Pollard's Vision was 17th in 2004, and Ten Most Wanted was ninth in 2003.

Hollendorfer has been trying to put solid races into Cause to Believe without throwing him into the toughest competition too soon.

Although he is known for his late kick, Cause to Believe did go wire to wire for his maiden victory at 4 1/2 furlongs.

In Saturday's California Derby, he rallied from last place to win by four lengths under Russell Baze.

"He's done it a lot of different ways," Hollendorfer said, "but I don't like him running back that far."

Cause to Believe was seven lengths behind unpressured pacesetter Sinister Minister after a half-mile, but he began moving up approaching the second turn.

"I just started knuckling him, and he started picking up horses, but I didn't ask him till he turned for home," Baze said.

Cause to Believe seemed to have Sinister Minister measured, but his job was made easier when the pacesetter, who was hugging the rail, tried to jump the fence, bumping into it three times.

"I don't know why," said Martin Garcia, who rode Sinister Minister, when asked about the incident. "He wasn't tired. I felt like I had a lot of horse, and, after he tried to jump the rail, he came back."

Bai and Bai still headed for turf

Bai and Bai was impressive in the race before Cause to Believe's California Derby victory, winning the $49,950 Telegraph Hill Stakes at 1 1/16 miles for 3-year-old fillies by four lengths.

The race was switched from turf to dirt, which didn't bother Bai and Bai's trainer, Bill Delia, but he still wants to try her on turf. Since Bai and Bai is a stakes winner at Santa Anita, Delia said he wouldn't be averse to shipping her to Southern California for her next start.

Strong Faith wins for new connections

Strong Faith, claimed for $32,000 in her previous start on Jan. 26, won Sunday's $42,850 Muir Woods Stakes for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles, rallying from last.

"The owner picked her out," winning trainer John Martin said.

"I've been stalking her for a year," owner Mark Saleby said. "I thought she'd run better if she wasn't raced so much."

The Muir Woods was Strong Faith's third straight victory.

Jockey Roberto Gonzalez rode both Bai and Bai and Strong Faith. He has ridden Strong Faith in her past four victories, dating back to March 2005.

A week of strong performances

Impressive performances were turned in last week by Ladies Souvenir, Barber, and Spanish Chestnut.

Ladies Souvenir scored a 12-length optional claiming victory on Thursday. She has been entered back in this Friday's Eire Go Brach Stakes.

Barber, who has lost to Cause to Believe and Frisco Star (twice) since winning his debut, held off Smokey Stover in an optional claiming race last Friday. Smokey Stover, who once again broke a bit slowly in a six-furlong race, was entered only because his trainer, Greg Gilchrist, thought a preferred spot in a route wouldn't materialize, but the race did in fact fill on Sunday.

Spanish Chestnut, making his first start since setting the pace in last year's Kentucky Derby, looked good winning a six-furlong optional claiming sprint on Friday while beating the stakes-winning Halo Cat, among others.

Golden Gate 'Cap nominations close

Twenty-five older runners were nominated for Sunday's $150,000 Golden Gate Fields Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

Adreamisborn, coming off a victory in the March 4 San Quentin, and Hendrix, 2 for 2 over the course, top the lis. Recent stakes winners Capitano and Western Act are also nominated, as is Senor Swinger, 11th but beaten only three lengths in the Kilroe Mile.

* Juan Bernardini, who rode Purple Myst last Thursday when he came in and caused a spill, was handed a seven-day suspension that will be in effect March 17-25.

* A San Mateo County Superior Court judge ruled last week that Bay Meadows cannot intervene in a lawsuit filed by the Friends of Bay Meadows against local officials over signatures that were rejected in the group's attempt to force a referendum to overturn the San Mateo City Council's approval of the track's redevelopment plan.

* Six older runners, including speedsters Robert E and Colonel Courtney, will race in Wednesday's Golden Gate Fields feature, a $32,000 claimer at six furlongs.