03/30/2012 12:19PM

Los Alamitos: Francisco set to fire three shots in El Primero Del Ano Derby


With three of the 10 finalists, including fastest qualifier New Look, Dan Francisco will be a busy trainer in the paddock before the $184,000 El Primero Del Ano Derby at Los Alamitos next Saturday.

The 400-yard derby for 3-year-old colts and geldings is a race that Francisco, 68, expects to win.

“I’m very fortunate to have a good group of 3-year-olds,” he said on Thursday.

Francisco is well known for winning the third Champion of Champions in 1974 with Don Guerro; training the 870-yard star Griswold in the early 1990s, and the 2004 World Champion, Be a Bono. His only career win in the El Primero Del Ano Derby was Triple Beat in 1974.

New Look, Willie Dasher, and Jess Dapper, his hopes in the El Primero, have yet to win a stakes.

New Look, timed in 19.68 seconds in a division of the trials on March 18, was an immature 2-year-old, but has won 3 of 4 starts since returning to racing in early December. Owned by Mimi Wells, New Look’s only blemish in that span was a seventh after a poor start in the Los Alamitos Maiden Stakes on Feb. 26.

“We wanted to let him grow up,” Francisco said. “He’s gotten longer and taller.”

Willie Dasher, third in a division of the trials, has 1 win in 13 starts. He has raced third twice after being fitted at the gate with a flipping halter that tethers the gelding to the front of the stall door with a rope which is released when the gate opens.

“He was having a terrible time in the gate,” Francisco said. “He doesn’t like for us to touch his head at the barn. I put him in a flipping halter and he’s run well in his last two races.”

Jess Dapper won for the first time in his eight-race career in the trials. Francisco said Jess Dapper needed 400 yards to show his best.

“He’s been crying for more distance,” Francisco said. “It’s time to show his best.”

The Francisco trio must beat Kobe, the winner of the Los Alamitos Winter Derby on Feb. 18 who was a troubled third behind New Look in the trials.

Francisco said that he, and his horses, will be ready. Thursday, he had a friendly a warning to the younger generation of trainers at Los Alamitos.

“I’ll be 69 in August, and I haven’t lost the desire to win a race,” he said. “These young guys had better watch out.”