10/02/2009 1:20PM

It's Pat!


Just in case anyone asks, here is exactly how the order reads as issued Aug. 11, 2008, by Administrative Law Judge Daniel Juarez, of the state of California's Office of Administrative Hearings:

"Respondent Patrick Valenzuela is permanently ineligible to reapply for, or to hold, a license issued by the California Horse Racing Board."

This could be interpreted, without much fear of argument, as unambiguous. "Patrick Valenzuela" can mean only the same Patrick Valenzuela who has won more than 4,000 races, a Kentucky Derby, seven Breeders' Cup events, and was charged with a DUI in December of 2007 while riding under a provisional CHRB license agreement that forbid any use of alcohol. "Permanently" is a word that leaves very little wiggle room, just as "ineligible" lends itself to very narrow interpretation. In addition, the fact that the order states that "Patrick Valenzuela" can neither "reapply" or "hold" a license from the racing board would seem to put a damper on anyone giving him a license to ride in California for a 47th birthday present on Oct. 17, although he would probably consider it a lovely gesture, even if he could only use it for a bookmark.


Ah, but an inspired attorney hasn't really taken a crack at the Juarez order yet, so hedge your bets accordingly. And I only bring this up because Valenzuela has requested that the California Horse Racing Board consider granting him a license to ride once again in California.

Valenzuela is currently recovering from a shoulder injury sustained in a horrifying pile-up at Louisiana Downs on Aug. 23. Prior to that, he made a cameo appearance at Del Mar for the unveiling of the Peb mural (on which Valenzuela is a featured face) and lobbied everyone he saw to be allowed to return. More recently, he was in L.A. to attend the funeral of his uncle, Hall of Fame jockey Milo Valenzuela, and for the opening day program of the Oak Tree meet.

Again, from the Juarez order: "Respondent's arguments, that it is unreasonable to require Respondent to completely abstain from alcohol, unreasonable to deem him permanently ineligible for licensure, and that, in pursuing these actions, the CHRB goes beyond its legislative authority, is flatly countered by the Legislature's broad and unambiguous language in Business and Professions Code  section 19460 ("conditions as deemed necessary or desirable"). Furthermore, given Respondent's previous drug addiction, it is reasonable to require Respondent to refrain from ingesting any drugs or alcohol at any time, not just before a horse race."

No one has an inherent right to be a jockey, although the privilege is available to anyone who wants to play by the rules. If Valenzuela wants to gain access to that privilege in California once again, he has every right to try. It will cost him, obviously. The legal representation required won't come cheap. Right now is not the time to recount the ways in which Valenzuela has dragged the sport through his personal torments, or to list--alphabetically or chronoligically--the many chances he has squandered in the past. Hopefully, he will be quietly discouraged to abandon this latest quest, and come to understand that he has worn the welcome mat to tatters. Sometimes, no just means no.