That race is today, when the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Cause to Believe goes to post at 2:12 p.m. in the Grade II Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Race Course just outside Chicago.
Cause to Believe, owned by Peter Redekop and Peter Abruzzo, is the morning-line favorite at 5-2 in the field of 10.
Hollendorfer was noncommittal Friday when asked if Cause to Believe needed to win today to earn a trip to Churchill Downs.
"I don't want to say either way," Hollendorfer said. "There has to be a lot there for us to go on to the Derby. We are not going to sacrifice him just to run him in the Derby. He has to show us he's ready for it, and I think he will."
The Illinois Derby is one of three Kentucky Derby preps today, joining the Wood Memorial in New York and Santa Anita Derby in Arcadia.
Cause to Believe to be ridden by Russell Baze has made nine career starts and is getting better each time out. He has been no worse than second in all nine starts and has six wins, including back-to-back in the El Camino Real and California Derby his past two starts, both with Baze.
"You hope the horse will keep getting better and moving forward," Hollendorfer said. "But you never know. We are trying to move him forward, and if he likes this track, everything will go forward from there."
Hollendorfer is taking no chances in this race. Normally, Baze flies Friday night to races on the East Coast, but this time, Hollendorfer had the jockey go there much sooner.
Baze rode one race at Hawthorne on Friday and will ride in the fifth race today at Hawthorne.
"We wanted Russell back here early, rested and ready to go," Hollendorfer said.
In all but two of his nine starts, Cause to Believe has come from off the pace. In today's race, it appears he will get a decent pace to run at because at least two horses figure to head to the front right away.
Racketeer and Sweetnorthernsaint figure to set the early pace, and it won't be surprising if they lock up out front. Both are breaking from outside of Cause to Believe (post position 7), which suits Hollendorfer just fine.
"I haven't really been over the race yet," Hollendorfer said. "But I do like the post we drew. It gives us a chance to take the path we want to take."
Racketeer and Cause to Believe were slated to mix it up in the California Derby on March 11 at Golden Gate Fields, but Racketeer trainer Bobby Frankel opted not to send the horse north at the last minute.
In his last start, Racketeer was fourth in the Grade II San Felipe at Santa Anita, beaten in order by A.P. Warrior, Point Determined and Bob and John. All three horses are entered in prep races today.
A.P. Warrior is the second choice in the Santa Anita Derby at 3-1 behind prohibitive favorite Brother Derek, and Point Determined is 9-2. Bob and John is the slight favorite in the Wood at 2-1.