The Racing Journal Logo

Deniro looking for a repeat of local debut in $200,000 Winter Derby


February 16, 2012     E-mail this page to a friend!

Deniro sets the fastest time—400 yards in :19.518—from four trials to the Los Alamitos Winter Derby
(photo by Scott Martinez, courtesy of Los Alamitos Race Course)
Shane O’Leary could not have asked for a better introduction to racing at Los Alamitos Race Course than the one his gray gelding Deniro provided him in the trials to the Grade 1 $200,000 Los Alamitos Winter Derby on January 28. The Washington-based owner shipped the Desirio gelding to trainer Ugo De La Torre in order to compete in the 400-yard trials. The results blew away all of O’Leary’s expectations.

“It was exhilarating to see,” said O’Leary, a pipe fitter in the Tri-Cities area consisting of Kennewick, Pasco and Richland in southeastern part of the state of Washington. “He got out in front in his first trip at Los Alamitos. That was exciting to see. He is our first one to race at Los Alamitos and we are thrilled that things worked out like they did.”

Racing from the outside post number eight, Deniro started the race as if he was shot out of a cannon. He was never challenged from there on the way to a length victory and the fastest qualifying time of :19.51. The second qualifier was the trial runner-up Check My Thoughts, who covered the distance in :19.68 for trainer Jimmy Glenn. The third fastest qualifier was Eye For FDD, who covered the distance in :19.80 – or nearly two lengths slower than Deniro. All in all, it was the perfect result for O’Leary’s first ever starter at Los Alamitos.

O’Leary has plans to be on-track at Los Alamitos to watch Deniro’s racing return in the Winter Derby this Satuday night, February 18. The owner will be accompanied by his wife, Kelly, and Mike Hickman, who along with Gregory Hickman, bred Deniro.

“We are making a trip out of it and I’m looking forward to seeing his second start,” O’Leary continued. “This horse is a good closer and he doesn’t like to run last. He ran second in the Firecracker Futurity (on July 4) and if you notice he only lost that race by a nose. He didn’t break as well as we wanted. That was the difference in the race. He ran out of racetrack. He also ran fourth in the Far West Futurity, but he really didn’t get a good hold of the track.”

Deniro needs to be ready to fly in the Winter Derby, as he’ll be facing a talented group that in addition to Ed Allred’s Check My Thoughts and Deleyco Race Team’s Eye For FDD will also feature multiple Grade 1 stakes finalist Long Gone, Holiday Handicap winner Kobe and Markel Stakes winner Testing The Ice. Even as tough rivals await, Deniro still looks like the one to beat if he comes to close to repeating his trial effort.

“We’ll see what happens on Saturday, but we’re thinking about the Los Alamitos Super Derby and Ruidoso Downs to run him in a couple of races there,” the owner added.

O’Leary purchased his prized racehorse just shortly after coming out of the Mr Eye Opener mare Priscilla Ione.

“I bought him right after he was born,” he said. “We kept him at the Hickman’s ranch and when it came time we sent him to trainer Scott Raley to race. Greg had sold his mother to Jose and Gustavo De La Torre here in California so when it came time to ship him to California I decided that De La Torre’s barn would be a good place for Deniro.”

Everything worked as planned in the Winter Derby trials. It’s now time for Deniro, who’ll be ridden by Adrian Loza from the outside post 10, to step on the big stage of a Grade 1 final.

“He’s only the second race horse that I’ve ever had and we feel that he’s a good one. I really like that he’ll be starting from the 10 hole in the Winter Derby final because he shouldn’t get pinched from there.”

The field from the rail out is as follows: Testing The Ice, BF Farm Girl, Check My Thoughts, Flame N Flash, Eye For FDD, Long Gone, Flyin Rose, One Ramblin Lady, Kobe and Deniro.

Trials report, January 28


On a day that featured sunny weather in the low 80s and not a cloud in the sky in beautiful Southern California, nothing was as picture perfect as the winning performance by Shane O’Leary’s Deniro in the fourth and final trial to the $197,700 Los Alamitos Winter Derby.

Making his first start at the Orange County track after arriving via Portland Meadows, Deniro flew from the outside post eight and blew away the fastest qualifying time for the Winter Derby finale by covering the 400 yards in :19.518. His winning time was :17/100ths of a second faster than the next fastest qualifier who happened to be trial runner-up Check My Thoughts. Deniro’s time was more than two lengths faster (36/100ths of a second) than the next fastest trial winner of the night, the talented Long Gone, who won the opening heat.

Trained by Ugo De La Torre and ridden by Adrian Loza, Deniro was picking up his third win in seven starts. He came into this race after finishing fourth in the Far West Futurity at Portland Meadows and four races back he was second in the Firecracker Futurity at Grants Pass. Bred by Gregory and Renee Hickman, the Desirio gelding’s previous victory was a trial to the Firecracker back in June 19.

“I’m extremely surprised with his victory,” De La Torre said. “This was his first time under the lights and even thought I was hoping he would do well I wasn’t certainly not expecting him to do this well. This horse came to my barn thanks to my brothers Jose and Gustavo. They had done some business with Shane with some broodmares and that’s how that connection was made. Jose just got off the phone with Shane and he was telling me that he was thrilled. His family was all screaming with joy watching him win this race like if they had just won the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. I’m happy for them. You run horses to enjoy moments like the one Deniro just gave Shane and his family.”

De La Torre admitted that he was little concerned with Deniro coming into the trials.

“This is the first horse he’s had with us and when I first saw Deniro I thought he was a big, good looking horse,” he added. “But his appetite was a little light and it took him a few days to come around. He just started getting his appetite back recently and he’s starting to feel a little more comfortable with his surroundings. I think he’s figured out that he’s no longer in the Northwest and that he’s at Los Alamitos.”

Owned and bred by Ed Allred and trained by Jimmy Glenn, multiple stakes winner Check My Thoughts came through with a solid trial effort in the fast final trial. Ridden by Eulices Gomez, Check My Thoughts broke a couple of steps behind Deniro, but he kept on task and never let another horse pass him by. This will be Check My Thoughts’ first Grade 1 final after third Ed Burke Memorial Juvenile Stakes, first in the California Breeders Freshman Stakes and first in the Golden State Juvenile Stakes. Deleyco Race Team’s Eye For FDD crossed the wire in third place with a time of :19.806, which was also good enough to give him the third fastest qualifying time for trainer Jose Flores.

LJM Ranch’s Long Gone continued his tremendous record in trial races, as he won his fifth trial in six attempts. His connections will now look for the son of TR Dasher to parlay this victory into his first ever stakes victory. Long Gone has been close before. He crossed the wire first in the Governor’s Cup Futurity, but was disqualified for interference and place ninth and also ran second in the PCQHRA Breeders Futurity and fifth in the Golden State Million Futurity. Rodrigo Aceves piloted the classy Allred-bred colt for trainer Felipe Quintero.

Mark and Mary Parsons’ charismatic Kobe broke poorly but recovered quickly to finish second to Long Gone. The colt by Mr Eye Opener won the Holiday Handicap in his last start and was losing for only the second time in five career starts. Kobe still qualified with the sixth fastest time of the night of :19.885.

Don and Peggy Boyle’s BF Farm Girl had a bad start, but was flying like a rocket at the end to win her trial by a head over Jose and Gustavo De La Torre’s One Ramblin Lady. BF Farm Girl was sixth at the start, fourth with 180 yards to go and still trailed with 100 yards left in the race before catching her rival to win by a head. Trained by Paul Jones, who qualified Kobe, BF Farm Girl completed the distance in :19.893.

Sompin About First won the only other trial, but failed to qualify out of a race that featured a triple dead heat for fourth place between Driving Miss Dazie, Sex On Fire and Zoomdasher.

The complete list of qualifiers is as follows: Deniro (:19.518), Check My Thoughts (:19.681), Eye For FDD (:19.806), Long Gone (:19.854), Testing The Ice (:19.875), Kobe (:19.885), BF Farm Girl (:19.893), One Ramblin Lady (:19.914), Flame N Flash (:19.917), and Flyin Rose (:19.936).