04/24/2012 2:44PM

Hollywood: Valenzuela begins another comeback

Benoit & Associates
Jockey Patrick Valenzuela guides Acclamation to the winner's circle following the Clement L. Hirsch Championship on Oct. 2 at Santa Anita.

The Betfair Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting will be five races old when jockey Patrick Valenzuela walks into the paddock to ride the maiden claimer Family and Friends in a sprint Thursday.

For Valenzuela, 49, the mount will be the first in the latest comeback of his career, four months after he announced his retirement from riding because of knee trouble and gall bladder surgery.

Valenzuela, whose career has been interrupted repeatedly in the past because of substance-abuse problems, may have a big week in the first days of the Hollywood Park meeting. Friday evening, he rides Acclamation, the champion older male of 2011, in the $100,000 Inglewood Handicap, the horse’s first start of 2012.

“I’m very confident and very optimistic,” Valenzuela said in a phone interview Tuesday morning. “I’ll try to come back the same way I have in the past, with some winners.”

Valenzuela, who has won 4,333 races in his career, has not ridden since November. A month later, he announced his retirement, insisting he would not change his mind. He announced his comeback earlier this month.

The condition of his knees, more than 33 years after his first win in New Mexico, remains a concern, he says. A recent exercise program that includes Bikram Yoga may help, he hopes.

“That is some tough stuff,” he said. “It’s like doing yoga in a sauna room.

“I think it’s helping my knee, too. The teacher tells me it does.”

By incorporating yoga into his exercise away from the racetrack, Valenzuela said he hopes to “strengthen his legs and take the strain off the knees.

“So far, I’ve felt good. I’m eating the right food after having my gall bladder removed. I had to change my diet.”

Valenzuela has two mounts on Thursday afternoon and four on Friday evening. Last week, he worked Acclamation on Santa Anita’s turf course. Last year, Valenzuela rode Acclamation to two stakes wins, including the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar.

“He worked like a monster, the way he worked the other day,” Valenzuela said. “I hope he does what he did last year.”

Harvey Hochberg More than 1 year ago
PVal is NOT the problem - he's only the latest symptom of ineffective STEWARDS;Trainers who care little about rules and standards; and the CHRB,which has as much power as Laurel and Hardy,when it comes to enforcing regulations.With milliions of dollars being wagered daily,politicians choose to look the other way.....but in the eyes of eroding public interest,this industry has a much shorter life expectancy than Mr.Valenzuela.
john More than 1 year ago
Pat V is the Steve Howe of baseball. And we all know what he did with his signing bonus! This isn't the jocks fault, it's the people that govern this sport. What a joke.
Diane Henkel More than 1 year ago
Horses have no ability to say they don't want a jockey who is on drugs. Horses have no ability to say they don't want trainers, or even owners, to dope them so they can use them to make money. So ANYONE who abuses thoroughbred horses should be banned from racing, for life. And spare me the handicappers who might have to work a little harder to get their trifecta. They don't care about the horses either if all they want is to make money from the pain and suffering the horse endures. I love horse racing. But it should be a clean sport. Get rid of the people who give horse racing a black eye.
Vin More than 1 year ago
Diane , don't watch racing then , turn the channel
Diane Henkel More than 1 year ago
I watch horse racing, and go to various races, because I DO love the sport. I am not trying to make money off betting. In fact, I bet very little. As a former equestrian rider for many years, amatuer not professional, I have seen the good and the bad that goes with the sport. But I stand by my statement. Horses cannot speak up for themselves. That's why it is up to people to weed out the bad, and keep the good. Abuse is abuse-whether it be animal or person. And it doesn't go away by turning the channel. It goes away when people put a stop to it.
LadyZen More than 1 year ago
If you love horse racing, then you bet, right???? He who lives in a glass house........ And don't even tell me you've never bet on a horse that PVal was on, because nobody will believe you.
Diane Henkel More than 1 year ago
I have never, and would NEVER, bet on a horse ridden by PVal, as he likes to be called now. My car license plate is S Silnce, after the great Sunday Silence. After what he did, he couldn't even ride him in the Breeder's Cup Classic in 1989. You know what they say about people who make assumptions. Will I make a $2 bet if I am at the track? Sure. But I go to see the horses, they are the the champions. They make the sport great. To pick out who I think will win, and be right, is good enough for me. I don't need to bet, or make money. That's why I can say I love the sport, I go to see these wonderful creatures, not to gamble. That's why they have casinos, to gamble. As a RN, I deal with addicts. You might want to look up the statistics and facts regarding addiction. Each time you fail, the chances are less that you will succeed. And you have to stay away from the friends that you knew while using. So returning time after time to the environment that you are in while using, makes it even more difficult. I hope PVal can make it this time. But he won't do it at a racetrack.
Michael Ciasca More than 1 year ago
He's making a mochery of the sport. There is no doubting his talent as a jockey, but enough is enough. I believe in 2nd chances but this guy struck out a long, long, long time ago.
Michael Ciasca More than 1 year ago
whooooops, MOCKERY
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm hoping that you, Mr. Valenzuela, remain clean and sober the rest of your life. But you have no business being back riding horses and endangering the life of your fellow jockeys and the horses you are riding. As to the owners and trainers who choose to use your services, they are responsible for their own actions when they decide to place you atop their steeds. It is their choice, not so for the other jockeys and horses that get forced to have you in the races. You have had plenty of opportunities ( we are not taking about you being a first time offender here) and have squandered every single one of the. I do not doubt that you are an extraordinary jockey, with an amazing talent and I wish you well in your future endeavours as you embark on a new career as horse owner or breeder if you wish to remain within the industry. May God be with you.
Diane Henkel More than 1 year ago
Facts: Google them. 2004-riding on conditional license, shaved entire body to prevent hair follicle testing. Banned 1 year. 2005-license reinstated. 2006-out d/t injuries. Returned 11/07. 12/07- license terminated. 2008-permanently banned from racing in California 2010-returned to racing. 2011-disappeared when ordered drug testing, then announced retirement. Now back again. In 2004, 18 jockeys signed petition to prevent him from racing. They didn't want to be in a race with him. So, unless you are at every race, you don't know whether he uses drug while racing. Mandatory testing for every race he is in, at his expense, should be demanded or heis out, this time for good..
Bellwether4U More than 1 year ago
now lets talk about TRAINERS that have been caught over & over JUICE N the HORSES???...GMAFB...
Panama Stallion More than 1 year ago
Those should also be banned PERMANENTLY from the sport. Start with Rick Dutrow, give him the Ernie Paragallo treatment because what he does IS ANIMAL CRUELTY.
Slew32A More than 1 year ago
Enough with the knee jerk comments on Dutrow. While there's many that should be banned including Dutrow, let's start from the top, Todd Pletcher!
Vin More than 1 year ago
What does Dutrow do that is animal cruelty.
Vin More than 1 year ago
Fact..... no failed drug test since 2008 Fact rode 2 years in La , no failed drug test Fact -he is randomly tested all the time Fact- unlike say Kent Desormeaux he has never appeared at a track to ride when drunk Fact-unlike so many riders , he has never gotten days for not giving his best effort Fact - he did not "disappear" in 2011 to avoid drug testing , he had gall bladder surgery , had a personal issue with a fiancee ( something we ALL have one time or another) and had ALL OF THIS checked and confirmed by the stewards. I'll take P Val on my horse when my money is down over almost anyone . The problem in racing isn't P Val , it is the riders that don't try
Mike D More than 1 year ago
He is a disgrace to the sport. Trainers who use him are pathetic and have no regard for the for the sport. Shame on you all.
Bellwether4U More than 1 year ago
Marc Rogala More than 1 year ago
One GREAT rider cood wishes Pat!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's hard to enough to ride at his age, not to speak of how hard it is and was to be on the bottom after being on top. I wish him all the luck on and off the track. I have seen him ride since he was a bug and he never went into a slump after he lost his bug like most do. I have always said that he was the most talented rider I have ever seen and it's too bad the problems he had. As far as drugs, I don't like them, not in me, not in my Jockeys, but most of all not in the horses. They need to clean this sport up and if that means a zero tolerance of all meds then so be it.
Vin More than 1 year ago
So let's just say we eliminate all drugs in horses....how big do you think the field sizes now become? 3 in Golden Gate , 5 in Santa Anita........silly
LadyZen More than 1 year ago
Don't human beings take maintenance drugs in their daily living? If you don't, then you're either EXTREMELY YOUNG or EXTREMELY LUCKY!! There may be certain meds that horses need on a regular basis and I can't be specific, I am not a vet. Maybe they have been too pervasive and need better monitoring......it's just a big issue and hard to resolve.