06/22/2012 2:33PM

Hollywood Park: Valenzuela hopeful better days ahead at Del Mar

Benoit & Associates
Patrick Valenzuela says he expects to be more active once Del Mar's meet opens next month.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Jockey Patrick Valenzuela has low expectations for the rest of the Betfair Hollywood Park meeting, which runs through July 15.

The upcoming summer meeting at Del Mar is a different matter.

In recent weeks, Valenzuela, 49, has ridden sparingly after taking nearly three weeks off – from May 20 to June 9 – to focus on weight issues. At the current meeting, he has 2 wins from 31 mounts, with one victory aboard Acclamation in the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Handicap on June 9.

Since that race, Valenzuela is winless with four mounts. He had one mount on Thursday, finishing seventh on Georgia’s Friend in the fourth race, and did not ride on Friday evening. On Sunday’s nine-race program, Valenzuela has one mount, Tribal Rain in the ninth, a maiden race for 2-year-old California-bred fillies.

“I’m concentrating on my weight,” Valenzuela said on Thursday. “I want to get down to 120. I’m getting ready for Del Mar. I want to have some momentum for Del Mar.”

When Valenzuela took off in May, he said his weight had soared to 129 pounds. Thursday, he rode at the assigned weight of 122 pounds.

He plans to be more active by Del Mar, riding with more frequency during that meeting which, runs from July 18 to Sept. 5.

“I think you’ll see a difference,” he said.

Acclamation is by far Valenzuela’s leading mount. The champion older male of 2011, Acclamation is being pointed for a defense of his title in the $300,000 Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar on July 21.

Morning Line will await San Diego

The three-time stakes winner Morning Line will pass the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 7, a race that may include Uh Oh Bango, their trainers said.

Morning Line, the winner of the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap on May 5, is being pointed for the $200,000 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on July 28, trainer John Shirreffs said.

Shirreffs said on Thursday that Morning Line emerged from a fourth in the Grade 2 Californian Stakes on June 9 without any physical mishap. The mental side of preparing Morning Line has been more difficult, he said.

“I’m trying to get him to enjoy his training more,” Shirreffs said. “He’s such a classy horse, too.”

Shirreffs said that part of that schedule “is mixing up the routine” of whether Morning Line jogs or gallops on the main track or training track at Hollywood Park. Before the Mervyn LeRoy, Morning Line had to be coaxed to the start, but then led throughout to win his California debut.

Uh Oh Bango, third in the Santa Anita Handicap in March, was fifth in the Charles Town Classic in West Virginia in April, his most recent race.

Trainer Kory Owens said Uh Oh Bango will start in the Hollywood Gold Cup or the $300,000 Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows on June 30.

In the Gold Cup, Owens says that the presence of the speedy Game On Dude, who won the Californian, will keep the field small.

“I think he’ll scare anyone else from shipping in,” Owens said. “If no one puts any pressure on him, we’ll be running for second.”

Holy Candy sharpens for Swaps

Holy Candy, third in the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap on June 3, worked five furlongs in 1:02.60 on Friday.

Trained by John Sadler, Holy Candy could start in the $150,000 Swaps Stakes on July 4. The top race for 3-year-olds at the spring-summer meeting, the Swaps Stakes field is led by the first two finishers of the Affirmed – Nonios and Liaison.

Rousing Sermon, eighth in the Kentucky Derby, and Blueskiesnrainbows, third in the Santa Anita Derby, are under consideration.

Called to Serve, the winner of a maiden race and an allowance in his last two starts for Peter Eurton, is another candidate.