|Daily Racing Form|
Monday, July 31
'Papa' makes U.S. debut in Oak Tree Derby
By Steve Andersen
Daily Racing Form
ARCADIA, Calif. -- All year, El Gran Papa has been scheduled for a late-season transfer from England to California, a move that his English trainer, John Gosden, predicts will result in a successful 4-year-old season.
But before 2001 arrives, El Gran Papa has an excellent chance to make a quick impression in Saturday's $250,000 Oak Tree Derby at Santa Anita.
Owned by Tom Tatham, El Gran Papa will be switched to trainer Bobby Frankel after the Oak Tree Derby, but will make his final start for Gosden in Saturday's Grade 2 race over 1 1/8 miles.
The winner of three races, including a 32-runner handicap at Royal Ascot in June, El Gran Papa was third in his last start, the Joel Stakes at Newmarket, England, over a mile on Sept. 28. Gosden suspects the move to firmer turf courses in California will help El Gran Papa.
"He's always shown a lot of ability," Gosden said. "He's probably better on fast ground. He doesn't like it when it gets soft. The original plan was the Del Mar Derby, but we had concerns about the turf course.
"I think he's a horse with a future. I think there's a bit of improvement in him as a 4-year-old because he's got a nice frame."
El Gran Papa, the mount of Chris McCarron, faces five others, including David Copperfield, who won the Cinema Handicap in June, but has lost his last two starts; L'Effaceur, the winner of the Pomona Derby; and Jokerman, who was second in the Bay Meadows Derby after a lengthy layoff.
Jokerman is trained by Neil Drysdale, who also starts Sign of Hope, who finished fifth in the Del Mar Derby and was beaten a neck by El Gran Papa in the Britannia Handicap at Ascot. Kent Desormeaux will ride Jokerman.
Designed for Luck, ninth in the Del Mar Derby, completes the field.
David Copperfield, trained by John Shirreffs, was beaten four lengths by Zentsov Street in the restricted In Excess Stakes on Oct. 4. There will be no rematch on Saturday, since Zentsov Street, who is trained by Ron McAnally, stepped on a nail last week. Shireffs is planning a minor change in strategy for the Oak Tree Derby.
"I'll let him runs the way wants to run," Shirreffs said. "Last time, we fought him and he wasn't relaxed.
"When we finished second to [Zentsov Street], it was a bit of a disappointment, but that horse of McAnally's was training awesome." Victor Espinoza, who was aboard David Copperfield for the In Excess, gets the return call.
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