02/05/2007 1:00AM

Balky knee prevents Valenzuela from riding

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Jockey Patrick Valenzuela, who has not ridden since Nov. 26 because of rib injuries and subsequent knee surgery, said over the weekend that he is hoping to return to riding in early March after suffering complications from the knee operation he underwent in December.

Valenzuela said he is hoping to see a doctor later this week to discuss the condition of his right knee. He offered no precise timetable for a return.

"I've got to see the doctor this week," he said. The knee "is really sore. I've tried working out a few times. It's been giving me a lot of problems."

Valenzuela had hoped to return to riding in early January, but postponed his return because of lingering soreness. He said that when the soreness subsides and he receives a doctor's clearance, he will need a few weeks to regain fitness.

Before he returns to riding, Valenzuela must renew his provisional license with the California Horse Racing Board. The previous license expired at the end of 2006. Valenzuela, who has a history of substance abuse problems that have plagued his career, has ridden under a provisional license in recent years that has required occasional drug testing at the racing board's request.

Valenzuela, 44, said he will approach racing board officials regarding his license as he nears a comeback.

Hollywood fined for bad information

Hollywood Park has been fined $3,000 by Santa Anita stewards after the track briefly released incorrect betting information to the public via its television systems before the seventh race on Dec. 18.

Hollywood Park's in-house television signal, which is distributed to simulcast locations, listed Forward Bernie as a scratch after the horse became loose for a few moments before a maiden race, according to Santa Anita steward Tom Ward.

Forward Bernie was not scratched after running off because he was quickly captured by an outrider and deemed fit to run by an official veterinarian, according to Ward.

A few minutes after that incident, Forward Bernie was scratched after striking his head in the starting gate as the field was being loaded, Ward said.

Which race for Downthedustyroad?

Downthedustyroad, the winner of the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes in December, will make her first start for new owner Theiline Scheumann this weekend, but trainer Bob Baffert has yet to finalize the race.

Baffert said Downthedustyroad, 4, is more likely to start in Saturday's $250,000 Santa Maria Handicap at 1o1/16 miles rather than Sunday's $200,000 La Canada Stakes for 4-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles.

"I'm kind of leaning toward the Santa Maria," Baffert said.

Downthedustyroad was purchased by Scheumann at the Keeneland January all-ages sale for $1.5 million through an agent last month. Downthedustyroad has won 4 of 10 starts and $282,050.

Monday at Santa Anita, Downthedustyroad worked six furlongs in 1:15.

The Santa Maria field will include Sugar Shake, the winner of the El Encino Stakes last month, and Ermine, the runner-up in the 2006 Kentucky Oaks and the winner of the Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs in November. Ermine will represent trainer Ron Werner's first starter at Santa Anita.

Other probable starters are Dona Amelia, Neuilly, Rahys' Appeal, River Savage, and Seafree.

Las Virgenes coming up strong

The Santa Maria Handicap is one of two Grade 1 races on Saturday's program, which includes the $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

The Las Virgenes field includes seven stakes winners - Baroness Thatcher, Cash Included, Jump On In, Quick Little Miss, Romance Is Diane, Runway Rosie, and Swiss Diva - and the recent maiden winner Rags to Riches.

Jump On In, the winner of the Grade 2 Santa Ynez on Jan. 15, will be ridden by Kent Desormeaux, trainer John Sadler said Sunday. Jump On In was previously ridden by Corey Nakatani. He is booked to ride Cash Included, the winner of the Grade 1 Oak Leaf Breeders' Cup Stakes here in September.

There are two major stakes on Sunday. Balance, the winner of two Grade 1 races here last year, will start in the La Canada Stakes. E Z Warrior, a two-time stakes winner who is unbeaten in three starts, will start in the $150,000 San Vicente Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs, the longest race of his career.

Three fatal breakdowns

Jockey Victor Espinoza took off his final three mounts on Sunday's program after being involved in a spill earlier in the day.

Espinoza was aboard Bardy Woman when the 6-year-old mare broke down going into the first turn of a starter handicap at 1 1/8 miles on turf. Bardy Woman was euthanized, according to track officials.

Two other horses, the promising 3-year-old Heza Legend and Parkhimonbroadway, were euthanized as a result of injuries suffered on Friday and Saturday.

Two options for Ravel

Ravel, the winner of the Grade 3 Sham Stakes on Saturday, is likely to return in a stakes in March, according to trainer Michael McCarthy.

The options include the Bob Lewis Stakes on March 3, formerly known as the Santa Catalina Stakes, or the San Felipe Stakes on March 17. Both races are run at 1 1/16 miles and are preps to the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 7.

Ravel won the Sham by a length over Liquidity, who was second in the Hollywood Futurity in December.

In the Sham, Ravel raced near the front along the rail and took the lead when asked by jockey Garrett Gomez.