03/08/2012 3:26PM

Santa Anita: Brother Francis using maiden race as Santa Anita Derby prep

Shigeki Kikkawa
Brother Francis was second in the Hollywood Prevue, third in the CashCall Futurity.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Brother Francis, third in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park in December, will be heavily favored to win a maiden race over a mile on turf in Saturday’s second race.

Trainer Jim Cassidy envisions Saturday’s maiden race as a prep for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 7, whether Brother Francis wins or loses. Another option would have been the much tougher $300,000 San Felipe Stakes for 3-year-olds over 1 1/16 miles on Saturday.

“I think it’s a good spot for him, rather than the San Felipe,” Cassidy said. “If he takes to the grass like he does everything else, it will set him up perfectly for the Santa Anita Derby.”

Owned by Norman Cheng, Brother Francis was ill for three weeks in January, Cassidy said. The trainer’s confidence grew after Brother Francis worked six furlongs in 1:12 on Feb. 29.