09/17/2002 11:00PM

Copperfield hasn't lost any speed

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Trainer John Shirreffs is hoping David Copperfield can unleash a little more magic in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap.

The 5-year-old David Copperfield was sidelined 14 months because of an ankle injury before coming back to post a front-running nose win in a 1 1/8-mile allowance race on the turf at Del Mar on Aug. 15.

Slated to run against David Copperfield in the 1 1/8-mile turf race, the premier event of the Bay Meadows fall meeting, are Ninebanks, winner of the San Matean Handicap and California Turf Championship in his past two starts; Dance Dreamer, beaten favorite in the Del Mar Handicap and winner of the Escondido Handicap in his past two starts; and Prodigious, who is winless this year. Either Gypsy Road or Macaneo is also expected to start.

Shirreffs expects David Copperfield to be on the lead again.

In his 2-year-old debut, David Copperfield beat Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus. "When we first had him, we thought he'd make some classics, but he preferred turf," Shirreffs said.

He showed such good potential on the turf, winning the Grade 3 Cinema Handicap at Hollywood Park before going into a July 2000 dispersal sale for Marshall Naify's 505 Farms, that he was purchased for $2.6 million by The Thoroughbred Corporation. But he won only a Keeneland allowance race in April 2001 before suffering an ankle injury that summer.

David Copperfield didn't need surgery on his ankle, and returned in sharp form.

"We've changed his training just a little bit," said Shirreffs, who was Naify's trainer. "Because he has so much speed, we were concerned about him finishing. Instead of worrying how fast he works, we concentrate on the last eighth. We want him to pick it up and change gears late."

Shirreffs likes the way the horse finished at Del Mar. He is aware that horses can sometimes bounce the second time back after long layoffs, but he doesn't expect that to happen with David Copperfield. "He's a strong horse, robust. I don't think it took too much out of him," Shirreffs said.

- In the first Friday night card of the meeting, the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained entry of Mining For Fun and Weinhard head a field of eight in the $33,000 allowance feature at six furlongs.

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