05/31/2004 11:00PM

No Belmont for Valenzuela

Smarty Jones, under exercise rider Peter Van Trump, appeared full of energy during a 1 1/2-mile gallop Tuesday at Philadelphia Park.

BENSALEM, Pa. - Jockey Patrick Valenzuela on Tuesday morning in Los Angeles Superior Court was denied a stay of a suspension issued by the California Horse Racing Board, preventing him from riding Rock Hard Ten in Saturday's 136th Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park.

Rock Hard Ten is considered the primary Belmont challenger to Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Smarty Jones, who will attempt to become the 12th Triple Crown winner. Rock Hard Ten was denied a starting spot in the Derby because of insufficient earnings in graded stakes, then was second to Smarty Jones in the Preakness.

Jason Orman, the trainer of Rock Hard Ten, said owners Ernie Moody and Madeleine Paulson had chosen Alex Solis to replace Valenzuela.

"Alex won a stake for Ernie on Saturday," Orman said, referring to the Laz Barrera Stakes at Hollywood Park, won by Twice as Bad. "And he was impressed with the way he rode Pico Central in the Met Mile."

Valenzuela would have been replacing Gary Stevens, who rode Rock Hard Ten in the Preakness and was aboard for Rock Hard Ten's two victories earlier this year. Stevens, however, is based in France this summer, and has commitments in several stakes races in Europe this weekend, most notably Sunday's French Derby.

Valenzuela had been sought by Moody and Paulson as a replacement for Stevens. But Valenzuela began a suspension on Tuesday, and needed a stay of that suspension in order to ride this weekend. Judge Dzintra Janavs denied the petition for a stay.

Donald Calabria, Valenzuela's attorney, said he was "shocked" by the decision, but said he would not seek to appeal it to a higher court.

"I only asked for a stay until June 7," Calabria said from Los Angeles. "I'm totally shocked. But these things happen in law. He has to take his medicine now."

Calabria said Valenzuela "took it real hard" when he learned of the ruling. "I asked him if he wanted me to call the owners, but he said he would," Calabria said.

Mark Beckington, a deputy attorney general who represented the racing board at Tuesday's court hearing, said the racing board argued two points - that issuing a stay was not in the public interest, and that Valenzuela had not presented sufficient evidence to overturn the board's ruling.

From the time Judge Janavs heard both sides until she issued her ruling, the entire process took less than a half-hour, Beckington said from Los Angeles.

Corey Black, the former jockey who is now Valenzuela's agent, was at Belmont Park on Tuesday hoping to secure mounts for Valenzuela on both the Friday and Saturday cards. Black has a close association with Rock Hard Ten, having worked the colt several times.

"Yeah, I wanted Pat to ride the race, but there are things that are out of our control," Black said. "We did everything we could to try and ride the race and it didn't work out. What we're disappointed in is we had clients that were counting on us to ride their horses."

Among the other horses Valenzuela was supposed to ride were Friendly Michelle for trainer Bob Baffert in Friday's Acorn Stakes and either Etoile Montante or Intercontinental for trainer Bobby Frankel in Saturday's Just a Game. Solis has also picked up the mount on Friendly Michelle, according to his agent, Scotty McClellan.

Tuesday's decision was the latest twist in an ongoing saga with the 41-year-old Valenzuela. The often-troubled jockey returned to riding in December 2001 after a near two-year absence, but the California racing board would only give him a conditional license that needed to be renewed annually and required him to undergo mandatory drug testing.

On Jan. 22 of this year, Valenzuela failed to report for a drug test ordered by Santa Anita's stewards after he took off his mounts that day, saying he had twisted his ankle at home. Valenzuela still had not turned up by the next day, so the stewards suspended him indefinitely.

After a subsequent hearing before the stewards, at which Valenzuela said his absence had been caused by depression, Santa Anita's stewards suspended Valenzuela for the balance of the year, but said he could re-apply for a license on Jan. 1.

That ruling was stayed on April 16 by John Harris, the chairman of the racing board, who said Valenzuela's case should be heard before the full board. Valenzuela resumed riding on April 25 at Hollywood Park, and quickly rocketed to the top of the jockey standings.

On May 18, the racing board heard the case, and ruled Valenzuela should be suspended for four months. Valenzuela was given credit for the three months he missed between Jan. 23 and April 24. The balance of the suspension was to be served during the month of June.

Tuesday's Superior Court ruling does nothing to alter the racing board's suspension. Valenzuela can resume riding on July 1.

Smarty Jones looks strong during gallop

Here at Philadelphia Park, Smarty Jones had an aggressive gallop early Tuesday morning over a muddy track. He went 1 1/2 miles, with exercise rider Pete Van Trump nearly standing up for more than half the gallop. Smarty Jones had his neck arched, eager to do more. When Smarty Jones came through the stretch the second and last time, Van Trump's feet were so far forward in the stirrups he looked like he was water skiing.

Later Tuesday, trainer John Servis said Smarty Jones's "energy level is very good."

"When he was cooling out he tried to buck jump," Servis said. "He's an amazing horse. I'm impressed that he's been able to maintain this level. Quite frankly, I didn't think he could after the Derby."

Regardless of Saturday's result, Smarty Jones will get a long vacation. "He's getting a break," said Servis, who said Smarty Jones's main objective this fall would be the Breeders' Cup.

Smarty Jones was scheduled to leave Philadelphia Park on Wednesday at 10 a.m. after his usual 5:40 a.m. gallop. Besides Smarty Jones and Rock Hard Ten, as many as seven other 3-year-olds were expected to enter the Belmont on Wednesday morning.

Birdstone was scheduled to be sent by van from Saratoga on Wednesday.

The longshot Caiman jogged at Belmont Park on Tuesday after arriving Monday from Illinois.

Elliott cancels media appearances

Stewart Elliott, the jockey of Smarty Jones, had to cancel several media appearances on Tuesday to be with his fiancee, Lauren Vannozzi, who was taken to Monmouth Medical Center on Tuesday for some undetermined neurological issues. Later Tuesday, Vannozzi, underwent further tests in Philadelphia.

Vannozzi works as an exercise rider for trainer Jason Servis, the brother of Smarty Jones's trainer. She had taken the day off, according to Servis, to accompany Elliott to New York.

Elliott was scheduled to appear on Live! With Regis and Kelly, and with Paula Zahn. He was also expected to appear at a press conference at Gallagher's, a midtown Manhattan restaurant.

- additional reporting by David Grening