05/20/2005 12:00AM

P. Val targets Del Mar return

Benoit & Associates
Megahertz may have only five opponents when she runs in the Grade 1 Gamely BC Handicap on May 30.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Jockey Patrick Valenzuela will be out until early July, recovering from injuries suffered when he fell shortly after the start of a sprint at Hollywood Park on May 8, he said earlier this week.

Valenzuela, the leading rider at the Santa Anita winter meeting earlier this year, underwent surgery on Monday to repair cartilage damage to his right knee. He said he is still suffering from headaches caused by a concussion sustained in the fall.

Valenzuela said he hopes to return in six weeks, and wants to be fully ready by the start of the Del Mar meeting on July 20.

"I still have a lot of headaches," he said. "I will take it a day at a time. Hopefully, I will be better in a month and a half."

Valenzuela's knee operation was conducted by Dr. James Tibone, who works closely with Southern California jockeys. Valenzuela said he is hoping to begin rehabilitating the knee through physical therapy in coming days.

The fall did not involve any other horses. Valenzuela was aboard Mango Escapade, who did not stumble. But a few strides away from the gate, Valenzuela fell off the left side of the mare and remained on the ground for a few minutes.

"I don't remember a lot of how it happened," he said. "I lost my right stirrup. I was lucky not to get run over."

The incident marked the second time he injured his right knee at this meeting. On opening night, April 22, he strained the knee in a starting gate incident.

"That day the horse reared and flipped over," he said.

Valenzuela subsequently missed a week of riding.

The latest injury is a major setback for Valenzuela. The Santa Anita meeting marked a return to riding for Valenzuela, 42, after he missed most of 2004 because of suspension.

Milkshaking bill passes first stage

Legislation that would allow the California Horse Racing Board to conduct milkshake testing passed the California Assembly on Thursday by a vote of 73-2.

The bill has been forwarded to the state Senate where it faces committee review before reaching a floor vote.

If approved by the Senate and signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the CHRB would assume control of milkshake testing, which has been conducted by the state's racetracks and horsemen since the start of the year.

The legislation would change the way trainers are penalized for excessive amounts of total carbon dioxide that appears in blood tests. Under the current program administered by the state's racetracks and horsemen, the first penalty is a requirement that all starters from a trainer's stable be placed in a security barn for 24 hours in advance of a start for a period of 30 days.

There have been seven such positives from approximately 10,000 tests this year, according to racing officials.

Under the legislation, an excessive amount of carbon dioxide level - 37 or more millimoles - would be considered a class 3 violation under CHRB rules, subject to purse forfeiture and a possible fine and/or suspension.

The legislation was required because it changes the way split sample testing is conducted by the CHRB. Currently, tests for other violations require that blood or urine samples be split and that the second portion be preserved to confirm the findings of an initial positive test.

Because samples used for carbon dioxide testing have a shorter shelf life, a second test could not be used to confirm the results of an initial positive test. Instead, the current legislation offers owners the option to have a sample split and tested before a race at additional expense.

If approved, the legislation would not take effect until later this summer or early fall.

Short fields for turf features

The two major turf stakes on May 30 - the Grade 1 Gamely Breeders' Cup Handicap for fillies and mares over 1 1/8 miles and the Grade 1 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile - will not have large fields. Both races are $350,000-added.

The Shoemaker field is led by Singletary, the winner of the 2004 Breeders' Cup Mile. He will be challenged by Buckland Manor, Fast and Furious, King of Happiness, Special Ring, and Whilly.

Castledale, the winner of the San Francisco Breeders' Cup Mile last month, may be a supplemental entry, according to racing officials.

Megahertz, unraced since winning the Santa Barbara Handicap at Santa Anita last month for the third consecutive year, will be favored in the Gamely. She will be opposed by Amorama, Makeup Artist, Halo Ola, Nadeszhda, and Uraib.

Halo Ola was the 2004 champion older female in Argentina and has yet to start in this country. She is trained by Luis Seglin.

Welcome wagon out recruiting

California racetracks and the Thoroughbred Owners of California, which represents horsemen in the state, have launched a campaign designed to lure owners and trainers from other areas to the state's racing program.

With California's horse population at a low, the tracks and TOC are seeking ways to draw attention to California racing, according to TOC president Drew Couto.

Earlier this month, large black suitcases containing promotional materials such as a bottle of wine (Wild Horse merlot, 2002), a package of sunblock, a stopwatch, a CD featuring songs about California (Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, The Mamas & the Papas, Jerry Jeff Walker, to name a few), and a small brochure on California racing was sent to several prospective owners and trainers nationwide.

Included was a comparison of California purses against those at major tracks throughout the nation.

"We want to remind them that California is a wonderful place to race," Couto said. "Our purses are still pretty good comparatively."

In addition, the tracks and the TOC are offering financial incentives, such as partial subsidies for shipping costs, to attract more horses, according to a letter that was included in the package.

The promotion has been conducted through the California Marketing Committee, a result of legislation in the late 1990's. Money from the committee has been used for a variety of purposes, including enhancing purses on major racing days such as the programs for the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic.

While it is too early to tell what impact the promotion is having, Couto admits there is really only one way to keep score - whether additional horses arrive in California.

The state's racing organizations have also launched calracing.com, a promotional vehicle that includes information about the state's racetracks, news, entries, links for horsemen, and a race replay service.