01/23/2004 12:00AM

No-show for drug test, Valenzuela suspended

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Jockey Patrick Valenzuela, the top rider in Southern California in 2003, was suspended indefinitely by the Santa Anita board of stewards on Friday for failing to appear for a drug test a day earlier.

The suspension is pending a hearing before the stewards and bans Valenzuela from the racetrack.

Valenzuela, whose career has been troubled by substance abuse problems, did not ride Thursday. He called track stewards at lunchtime Thursday and said he slipped and twisted his ankle while leaving his home. The stewards asked that he come to the racetrack for routine drug testing, which Valenzuela is required to do under an agreement he reached with the California Horse Racing Board.

When he failed to show for the test, stewards Ingrid Fermin, Pete Pedersen, and Tom Ward issued the suspension in a one-page ruling on Friday.

The ruling cited two sections of a contract for a one-year conditional license that Valenzuela signed in December 2001, a contract renewed in December of the last two years. Valenzuela returned to riding in December 2001 after missing 22 months because of a substance abuse problem.

The contract stated that Valenzuela must be present for testing when requested to do so in the event of injury or illness and that failure to live up to the conditions of the contract would result in suspension.

Ward said efforts to reach Valenzuela at his Arcadia home were made Thursday and Friday by the stewards and California Horse Racing Board investigators. Two calls placed to Valenzuela's home Friday were not answered.

On Thursday, Valenzuela hired former jockey Corey Black to be his agent. Three days earlier, Valenzuela fired Nick Cosato, his agent for the last two years, saying he wanted an agent who represented only him. Cosato also represents Corey Nakatani.

Black said Friday that he had not spoken with Valenzuela since late Thursday morning.

"We've left messages yesterday afternoon, and the board left messages yesterday afternoon and today," Ward said Friday. "We've heard nothing. We were hoping to hear from him, no question about that. It's an extremely sad situation."

Valenzuela won riding titles at all five major race meetings in Southern California last year.