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Hawthorne Racecourse (3/11/06)

Contact: DAK Productions
(708) 222-4540

Believe It Or Not -- an Illinois Derby Contender Surfaces

In the wake of an impressive win in Saturday's $100,000 California Derby at Golden Gate, Kentucky Derby contender Cause To Believe is likely to make a pit stop to Hawthorne for the Grade II $500,000 Illinois Derby on April 8 en route to the Grade I Kentucky Derby on May 6 at Churchill Downs.

"At this point we're about 75 percent sure we're coming to Hawthorne," trainer Jerry 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."

Following Cause To Believe's win in the Grade III El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows on January 29, Abruzzo, 48, purchased 25 percent of the Maria's Mon colt for an undisclosed amount. A longtime supporter of Illinois racing, Abruzzo pioneered the Modern Tuxedo chain of rental stores in Chicagoland and Indiana. He sold the company to Federated in 2003, but still serves as a consultant today.

"Horses like this rarely come around," Abruzzo said of his purchase. "This is what everyone who owns, breeds and trains horses is waiting for."

An owner of multiple stakes winners throughout the years, including Sharp Drums and the Illinois Champion Barely Makin It, Abruzzo got his first taste of the Triple Crown in 2002 when his USS Tinosa, also trained by Hollendorfer, finished sixth behind War Emblem in the 2002 Preakness.

"We were 21st on the list to get into the Kentucky Derby, and only 20 are eligible to start, so we missed by one horse," recalled Abruzzo, who currently resides in Long Grove, Illinois. "With the points we already have in the bank from the El Camino Real, that won't happen to us again this year."

Rated well off the pace in the 1 1/16 mile California Derby, the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee began to reel in the pace setting Sinister Minister nearing the turn for home. The front-runner appeared to jump several shadows before soundly bumping the rail at the top of the stretch, making Cause To Believe's job that much easier.

"That didn't matter," Abruzzo said. "Russell (jockey Baze) said he only let him run to get up to the leader, and that was it. He still had a lot left. It was incredible. This horse is unflappable, and he has the kind of style that would make him dangerous in a race like the Kentucky Derby."

Cause To Believe is not Triple Crown eligible, but the connections are expected to fork up the $6,000 late nomination fee prior to the March 25 deadline.

"That's a forgone conclusion," Hollendorfer said.





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