Add Cause to Believe to the list of semifinalists for the Kentucky Derby.
The gray, Kentucky-bred colt rallied from last in a field of five to win Saturday's $100,000 California Derby going away, 4 lengths ahead of pace-setting Sinister Minister. The Five J's finished third.
The winning effort was aided by some erratic running on the part of Sinister Minister, who repeatedly hit the rail during the stretch run, apparently trying to jump the barrier.
Winning jockey Russell Baze said Sinister Minister's troubles didn't hurt, but added, "We were going to catch him anyway."
Cause to Believe got the 1 1/16 mile in 1:41.07 on a fast track. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said the colt likely will make his final start before the Run for the Roses in the April 7 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Race Course.
"At this point we're about 75 percent sure we're coming to Hawthorne," Hollendorfer said after the race. "That was my plan even before Peter Abruzzo (Chicago native) came aboard. I like the timing of the race, and if we can keep the horse sound, the Illinois Derby is probably next."
The colt, a son of Maria's Mon out of a Storm Cat mare, now has six wins and three seconds from nine lifetime starts and is undefeated around two turns. "I think he is capable of better," Hollendorfer said after the California Derby win.
Kentucky Oaks prep
Balance rallied nicely, four-wide, into the lane in Sunday's $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks and went on to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Quiet Kim. Wild Fit, the favorite, was another 3 lengths farther back in third. Balance, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Thunder Gulch, ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.99 under Victor Espinoza. David Hofmans trains the filly for Amerman Racing Stables.
Imperial Ice, who stayed back of the pace in Thursday's $250,000 UAE Oaks at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse in Dubai, got to the front with 150 meters to run and went on to win by 1 length over Quality Special. Don't Dili Dali was third. "This filly is all guts," said winning trainer Herman Brown. "What she lacks in ability, she makes up for in guts. We've raced her really hard and she keeps getting better and better."
Healthy Addiction got the early lead in Saturday's $300,000 Santa Margarita Invitational and played "come and catch me" with seven rivals. None could, and the 5-year-old Boston Harbor mare wound up a 1 3/4-length winner over Dream of Summer. Seafree was third and the favorite, Proposed, was far back in fourth. Healthy Addiction, with Jon Court up, ran the 9 furlongs on a sealed, wet-fast track in 1:48.18. "Actually," said Court, "I was surprised to be in front. I got the lead and was able to dictate the pace. I let her do her thing." Trainer John Sadler, noting the mare's classy pedigree, said of the Grade I win, "I think her value as a broodmare just went up from $1 million to $2 million."
Round Pond led from gate to wire in winning Saturday's $175,000 Azeri Breeders' Cup but she was dogged every step of the way by a determined Happy Ticket. At the line, Round Pond just hung on to win by a neck. Platinum Ballet finished third. Round Pond is a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Awesome Again. She got the 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:43.93 under Stewart Elliott. Noting the classy matchup, Oaklawn President Charles J. Cella said, "I feel embarrassed the purse was so small. This was one for the ages." Both Round Pond and Happy Ticket are expected to return in the $500,000 Apple Blossom on April 8.
Sunday, Purim stalked the pace in the $150,000 Razorback Breeders' Cup Handicap, surged to the lead three-wide turning for home and went on to win by 2 lengths over Arch Hall on the day before the Jewish festival of Purim starts. Thunder Mission was third and the odds-on favorite, Rockport Harbor, struggled home fifth. Purim, a 4-year-old son of Dynaformer, ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:43.77 with Robby Albarado up for trainer Tom Proctor.
English Channel sat just off the early pace in Saturday's $100,000 Canadian Turf Handicap, went to the front with a furlong to run and had all he could do to hang on for a 3/4-length victory over the late-running Miesque's Approval. Silver Tree finished third. English Channel, with John Velazquez riding for trainer Todd Pletcher, completed the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:39.13. It was the first start for English Channel since his fifth-place showing in last fall's Breeders' Cup Turf. "His best distance is probably a mile and an eighth to a mile and a quarter," said Pletcher. "It's good to see that we can stretch him out from here. We'll go on to the Woodford Reserve on Derby Day (May 6 at Churchill Downs)."
Sunday, Go Between found room on the rail at the top of the stretch in the $100,000 Palm Beach Stakes for 3-year-olds, went through and went on to win by a neck over Up an Octave. Devil's Preacher finished third. Go Between, a Florida-bred son of Point Given, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:45.84 for jockey Edgar Prado.
Kazoo led every jump of Saturday's $100,000 Toboggan Handicap and coasted home 4 lengths in front of Bishop Court Hill. Wild Jam was third under the wire with the favorite, High Blitz, fourth. Kazoo, an 8-year-old son of Tabasco Cat, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.22 with Richard Migliore aboard.
Spirited Game came out of the gate running in Saturday's $75,000 Conniver Stakes for fillies and mares and was never seriously challenged, winning off by 1 1/4 lengths over Plata. Promenade Girl finished third. Spirited Game, a 5-year-old, Maryland-bred daughter of Not For Love, ran 7 furlongs in 1:23.76 with Jose Caraballo up.
Well Hidden rated well off the pace through the early furlongs of Saturday's $50,000 Island Fashion Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then came between horses with a sixteenth to go and went on to win by 1/2 length. Visual Effect was second and Legally Wild third. Well Hidden, a Kentucky-bred filly by More Than Ready, ran the 1 mile in 1:39.62 with Brian Peck riding.
Tampa Bay Downs
Despite odds of nearly 30-1, Cherokee Prince led all the way in Saturday's $65,000 Budweiser Challenger Stakes, winning by a comfortable 6 3/4 lengths over Seek Gold. Nightmare Affair was third and the favorite, Tap Day, finished eighth. Cherokee Prince, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Cherokee Run, ran the 1 1/16 mile under Mike Allen in 1:43.13.
Ella Belle was quickly to the fore in Saturday's $50,000 Wintergreen Stakes for fillies and mares and cruised home first, 5 3/4 lengths to the good of Cercatore. Quite a Ruckus was third while the favorite, Cat Quatorze, finished seventh. Ella Belle, a 4-year-old daughter of Elnadim, ran 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:38.57 with Willie Martinez aboard.