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Deniro Wins Super Derby

Gelding holds off late charge by Hez Our Secret at Los Alamitos.

November 4, 2012

Shane O’Leary, Mike Hickman and Scott Brundridge’s Deniro outdueled All American Derby (G1) runner-up Hez Our Secret by a neck in the Grade 1, $948,000 Los Alamitos Super Derby to earn a berth to the prestigious Grade 1 Champion of Champions on Saturday, December 15.

Ridden by Adrian Loza for trainer Jose De La Torre, Deniro left the gate a step behind Hez Our Secret from post number six, but the Desirio gelding made up the ground quickly against his rival before accelerating past him for good with 220 yards to go in the 400-yard event. Deniro, who now has three wins in four career starts at Los Alamitos, covered the distance in :19.409. His only loss in California was a second by a nose to Kobe in the Los Alamitos Winter Derby (G1) on February 18. Deniro earned $398,160 for this win to take his lifetime bankroll to $450,543.

“When he qualified to the Winter Derby he had just arrived to California about six weeks earlier,” said O’Leary of Benton City, Washington. “He was nobody when he got here, but he ran some good races and he really liked it here. We were disappointed when he lost a heartbreaker in the Winter Derby, but that’s the way things go sometimes when you are facing great competition. We made the late payment to go in some derbies at Ruidoso Downs, but things didn’t work out. The altitude messed him up in Ruidoso. We came back here and he settled back in quickly and showed that he really liked it here. He looked good and Jose did a good job schooling him for these races. We thought that if he could just break that we could win this race.”

Bred in Washington by Greg and Renee Hickman, Deniro is the culmination of some three decades of racing and breeding Quarter Horses for the Hickman family.

“My brother Greg and my dad initiated our family in this sport,” Mike Hickman explained. “They started Hickman Farms some 30 years ago in Kennewick, Washington, and the farm eventually changed its name to GR Farms. The farm doesn’t raise horses anymore, but if you’re looking for the best Red Angus cattle you can get, then this is the place to go. When GR Farms got out of breeding Quarter Horses, Jose De La Torre bought some of the broodmares. Horses like Deniro and my brother Robert’s Margaritas N Coronas are among the last of the horses from our breeding operation.”

Margaritas N Coronas qualified and performed well in the Wild West Futurity held at Los Alamitos a couple of weeks ago, but Deniro has certainly earned the lead role for the family’s group of horses.

“Greg has been breeding quality horses for a long time and he knows breeding,” Hickman said. “If you look up Deniro’s ancestors, you’ll find that they are some of greatest 440-yard horses in the history of the sport. His success tonight did not happen by accident. He has the bloodlines to accomplish what happened in this race.”

Deniro’s mother is the Mr Eye Opener broodmare Priscilla Ione.

“She’s named after our grandmother,” Hickman added. “I’m about to shed some tears just thinking about my grandmother right now. The winnings from tonight will help take care of a lot of things. The three of us are pipefitters. We put on our hard hat and go do our job.”

Brundridge joined the Deniro fun recently.

“I’ve known Shane for 20 years and when they wanted to get him into the big races in Ruidoso they needed some money,” Brundridge said. “That’s when I became a new investor in this horse. The three of us are blue collar workers. Winning a race like this usually doesn’t happen to guys like us, but I guess it did tonight.”

“We’ve known each other for a long time and this horse racing game has been a fun venture,” Hickman said. “We’ve had one other horse together, but that didn’t pan out as well as this has panned out.”

“That other horse was a greeter,” said Hickman’s wife, Noelia, a published children’s book author. “He would just stop and smile. Deniro, he is more of a conceited horse. He wants his photo taken in the winner’s circle.”

“It’s hard to believe that we are in the Champion of Champions,” O’Leary continued. “We were happy when we found out that he was eligible to run in the Champion of Champions trials. It’s amazing to now know that we have a free berth to such a big race. We were just hoping that he would get a clean break in the Super Derby. He looked like he was throwing a fit in the gate right before the start, but he settled down and he came out running.”

Trained by Trey Wood for Johnny Trotter, Hez Our Secret earned $161,160 for his second-place finish in the Super Derby. Ridden by Ricky Ramirez, the grey colt by First Down Dash was sharp at the start and while he ran a tremendous race from the outside post nine, he could not get past Deniro in the final yards. Hez Our Secret has now made $742,445 in 12 career starts.

Ed Allred’s Check My Thoughts, the winner of the Grade 1 Golden State Derby earlier this year, held off Jose and Gustavo De La Torre’s Do You Do Corona by a nose to finish in third-place. Ridden by Eulices Gomez and trained by Jimmy Glenn, Check My Thoughts earned $113,760 for his effort. Tres Of Linda finished fifth and was followed across the wire by the Champion of Champions bound filly Flame N Flash, Zoomdasher, Feature Miss America and Last To Fire. Terrific Synergy, who qualified for this race in the trials, was euthanized on October 26 due to founder.