02/16/2012 3:12PM

Los Alamitos: Deniro can benefit from outside post in Winter Derby

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Deniro was the surprise winner, and fastest qualifier, in time trials on Jan. 28 for Saturday’s $197,700 Los Alamitos Winter Derby for Quarter Horses.

With a modest record at 2 in the Pacific Northwest, Deniro had little trouble adapting to the perceived tougher racing circuit in Southern California. Now, the gelding must do it all over again in Saturday’s 400-yard final.

Owned by Shane O’Leary and trained by Ugo de la Torre, Deniro has drawn the outside post in a field of 10 in the Winter Derby, a race that lacks a major stakes winner from 2011.

Flame N Flash, third in a division of the Winter Derby trials, was eighth in the Ed Burke Million Futurity last summer. Long Gone, who won a division of the Winter Derby trials, was first in the Governor’s Cup Futurity last summer, but disqualified and placed ninth for causing interference in the race. He was later second in the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Racing Association Futurity and fifth in the Golden State Million trials.

In the trials, Deniro ran 400 yards in 19.51 seconds, pulling an upset at 14-1. Check My Thoughts, second by a length in that trial, has the second-fastest qualifying time of 19.68 seconds. Long Gone won his trial in 19.85 seconds, or about two lengths slower than Deniro.

In the Pacific Northwest, Deniro was second in the Firecracker Futurity at Grants Pass, Ore., and fourth in the Far West Futurity at Portland Meadows last year.

The outside post should help Deniro avoid trouble, O’Leary said. “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,” he said.

Despite a relatively slow trial time, Long Gone will be a factor in the final. Trainer Felipe Quintero said in January that Long Gone thrived during a 10-week break between a win in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity trials in November and the Winter Derby trials. Long Gone did not run quickly enough in the Two Million trials to reach the final.

Trainer Paul Jones has two qualifiers – BF Farm Girl and Kobe. BF Farm Girl is one of four fillies in the final. She won a division of the trials in 19.89 seconds. Kobe, the winner of the Holiday Handicap on Jan. 1, was second to Long Gone in the trials.