04/21/2004 11:00PM

Jockeys protest Valenzuela decision


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - A group of 18 jockeys presented the California Horse Racing Board on Thursday with a letter of protest for granting jockey Patrick Valenzuela a stay that allows him to ride while he appeals the termination of his conditional license.

In a two-page letter signed by Albert Fiss, the vice president of the Jockeys' Guild, the riders stated that Valenzuela should not be allowed to return to riding after violating his conditional license; disputed the analysis presented by Valenzuela's psychotherapist in a hearing with Santa Anita stewards in late March; called for additional drug testing for Valenzuela; and asked the CHRB to reverse its decision.

The petition was presented to the CHRB at its monthly meeting at Hollywood Park. Those who signed it were: Paul Atkinson, Mick Ruis, Alex Solis, Kent Desormeaux, Jose Valdivia Jr., Jon Court, Mike Smith, Alex Bisono, Corey Nakatani, Matt Garcia, Luis Jauregui, Victor Espinoza, Tyler Baze, Angel Gonzalez Jr., Javier Santiago, Omar Berrio, Octavio Vergara, and Chris Russell.

Eight of the top 10 jockeys at the recently concluded Santa Anita meeting were among those who signed the letter.

The letter prompted CHRB officials to say they would try to expedite Valenzuela's appeal, but they did not offer specifics on how that would be accomplished. Most appeals are sent to the Office of Administrative Hearings, which appoints an administrative law judge who issues an opinion to the board. The process typically takes several months.

Valenzuela, who has not ridden since Jan. 19, received a stay from the CHRB on April 16, allowing him to resuming riding. He is scheduled to ride Sunday at Hollywood Park.

Santa Anita stewards voided the conditional license of Valenzuela, 41, on April 2 after the jockey failed to submit to a mandatory drug test on Jan. 22.

CHRB chairman John Harris granted the stay. Harris met with Valenzuela on April 13 and cited the jockey's recent treatment for depression as the main factor in granting the stay. At a hearing on March 28, Valenzuela told the stewards he was fighting clinical depression.

Valenzuela worked horses at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park on Wednesday and Thursday.

When Valenzuela returns to riding, he will be subject to the same terms that were present in his conditional license, including reporting to the CHRB office each morning and taking a minimum of eight drug tests per month.

In addition, the board will require that Valenzuela undergo psychological counseling for depression.

The letter submitted to the CHRB by the jockeys read, in part:

"Mr. Valenzuela is a detriment to the horse racing industry and all those who abide by its rules. He continues to tarnish the professionalism and integrity that jockeys must display to the public for the betterment of the entire industry.

"It is our feeling that Mr. Valenzuela is not mentally fit to resume riding and has not been properly evaluated for both mental capacity and substance abuse. We are requesting that you reverse your decision of April 16."

Stormin' Lyon upsets Harry Henson

Stormin' Lyon was making his first start outside Golden Gate Fields when he pulled a minor upset in Wednesday's $78,075 Harry Henson Stakes on the opening day of the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting.

The Henson marked the colt's first start on turf and first stakes win. Run at 5 1/2 furlongs for 3-year-olds, the Henson was the first Hollywood Park stakes win for trainer Brian Koriner, who co-owns the colt with the Wind River Stable of Evan Trommer and Dan Pettit and Janet, Dick, and Billy Lyons.

"He's bred to sprint, and Brian said, 'Let's take a chance,' " said Trommer, who operates a nationwide business that provides clothing for prisons.

Ridden by Paul Atkinson, Stormin' Lyon dueled for the lead on the backstretch, then held off a late rally from even-money favorite Wimplestiltskin to win by a head.

"I wanted to sit right off the lead, but he was kind of keen and we went on with it," Atkinson said. "I could see the favorite was coming at the end. He was making up a lot of ground. I wasn't sure at the wire who won it."

Stormin' Lyon was timed in 1:01.62. Tunder Ponche finished third.

The field was reduced to five because of the early scratches of Evolution and Hosco and the post-time scratch of Tricky Flash Flood.

Evolution and Hosco were reported to be sick early Wednesday. Hosco was the morning-line favorite; he won the San Miguel Stakes at Santa Anita in January. Tricky Flash Flood was reported by track stewards to be "off" in his left foreleg.

The opening-day program was marred by considerable scratches. Of the 64 horses entered, only 56 started.