09/02/2009 11:00PM

Hall of Fame jockey Milo Valenzuela dies

Benoit & Associates
Jockey Milo Valenzuela received his Racing Hall of Fame plaque and jacket in a ceremony last year at Santa Anita.

Jockey Ismael "Milo" Valenzuela, who was elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame just last year, died on Wednesday morning at his home in Arcadia, Calif., not far from Santa Anita. He was 74.

Valenzuela had been in poor health for years, and was too infirm to make it to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., last year for the traditional induction ceremonies of that year's Hall of Fame class. But the Hall of Fame arranged for Valenzuela to be presented with his Hall of Fame plaque and jacket at Santa Anita's turf club during a postrace cocktail reception toward the end of the 2008 Santa Anita meeting, and Valenzuela, in a wheelchair, was able to attend. That marked the first time since the Hall of Fame was formed in 1955 than an induction took place away from Saratoga Springs.

"That's something we'll never forget," his eldest daughter, Patricia, said Wednesday afternoon.

The enshrinement of Valenzuela to the Hall of Fame took longer than many would have expected, and only came as a result of being selected by the Hall's Historic Review Committee, similar to the old-timers's committee for the baseball Hall of Fame.

Valenzuela certainly had Hall of Fame credentials. He won 2,545 races from 1951 through 1980, most notably aboard the great Kelso, on whom Valenzuela won 22 of 35 races, including 19 stakes. Valenzuela also was a two-time winner of the Kentucky Derby, on Tim Tam in 1958, and Forward Pass, who won in 1968 on the controversial disqualification of Dancer's Image.

Valenzuela was born in McNary, Texas, on Dec. 24, 1934, the third of 22 children born to his parents. He started riding in match races as a youth, then competed with Quarter Horses before moving over to Thoroughbreds.

In addition to the Kentucky Derby and his victories aboard Kelso, Valenzuela's other significant stakes wins included the Blue Grass Stakes, Brooklyn Handicap, Coaching Club American Oaks, San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap, and Santa Anita Derby. Horses he rode who are now in the Hall of Fame include Kelso, Affectionately, Cicada, Native Diver, Round Table, and Searching.

Valenzuela is survived by five children - two daughters and three sons; 14 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. His wife, Rosa, preceded him in death.

Funeral services are pending.