05/17/2004 11:00PM

P. Val must sit one month


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The California Horse Racing Board suspended jockey Patrick Valenzuela for four months on Tuesday for failing to submit to a mandatory drug test in January, but gave him credit for the three months he was suspended earlier this year.

As a result, Valenzuela will serve only one more month of suspension, beginning June 1. Until then, Valenzuela can continue to ride.

In addition, Valenzuela must undergo random hair-follicle and urine tests, and serve 100 hours of community service. During June, Valenzuela will be allowed access to racetrack grounds, which will permit him to exercise horses.

The ruling, which came after a 95-minute hearing at Hollywood Park, was unanimous among the seven board members, according to administrative law judge David Rosenman, who conducted the hearing but did not vote on the case.

In a typical appeal, an administrative law judge would hear a case and send a decision to the CHRB, which could approve, modify, or reject the decision. The process usually takes several months. Tuesday's hearing bypassed that process and marked the first time the board had convened a special session to hear a jockey's appeal of a stewards' ruling.

The board met privately for two hours after the hearing before announcing its decision. Valenzuela attended the hearing, but left before the announcement was made and was unavailable for comment.

Valenzuela missed a mandatory drug test on Jan. 22, was suspended the following day for missing the test, and subsequently had his one-year conditional license terminated by Santa Anita stewards on April 2 for the remainder of the year. He received a stay from the CHRB on April 16 that allowed him to resume riding until an appeal was heard.

He was credited Tuesday with the time he missed from Jan. 22 to April 25, when he resumed riding after receiving the stay.

During Tuesday's hearing, Valenzuela's lawyer, Terry Giles of Houston, called three witnesses - Valenzuela; horse owner Ron Waranch, a friend of Valenzuela's; and Dr. Larry Lewis, a psychotherapist who has treated Valenzuela.

Mark Beckington, a deputy attorney general, presented the case on behalf of the CHRB.

Giles argued that a case of depression led to Valenzuela's absence, and that the rider was not suffering from a substance abuse problem.

Lewis testified that Valenzuela's depression was caused by marriage problems and a reaction to a prescription for the anti-depressant Topamax.

Valenzuela, 41, said his depression was brought on by the failure of his 14-month marriage. He testified that he took off on Jan. 22 after stepping on a ball and hurting his ankle while leaving his house. He called stewards to be excused from his mounts, and was told by steward Ingrid Fermin that he needed to submit to a mandatory drug test. After failing to appear for the test, Valenzuela went into seclusion for several days. He approached Santa Anita stewards on Feb. 8 seeking reinstatement.