11/12/2007 1:00AM

Rags to Riches to resume training

EmailINGLEWOOD, Calif. - Rags to Riches, the nation's leading 3-year-old filly and one of the most popular racehorses to run this year, will return to training next month at Hollywood Park, trainer Todd Pletcher said.

But Pletcher said it might be spring before Rags to Riches makes her next start.

"We don't have a firm shipping date but we hope to have her here next month," Pletcher said Sunday, while visiting his Hollywood Park division. "She's coming back. There is no question about it."

Asked about a racing goal, Pletcher said, "We'd be looking at something in April as a best-case scenario."

Owned by Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, Rags to Riches has won 5 of 7 starts and $1,342,528. She won four Grade 1 races this year, including the Belmont Stakes against males in June when she edged eventual Breeders' Cup Classic winner Curlin.

Rags to Riches has made one subsequent start, finishing second in the Gazelle Handicap to Lear's Princess in September at Belmont Park. Shortly after that race, it was diagnosed that she had a hairline fracture of her right front pastern. In recent weeks, she has been based at Ashford Stud in Kentucky.

"She's still recovering and we'll do another set of X-rays shortly," Pletcher said. "We have to play it by ear. She's just resting. The first six weeks was stall rest."

Valenzuela may ride here Friday

Jockey Patrick Valenzuela, who has not ridden in California since Thanksgiving weekend of 2006, may ride at Hollywood Park this weekend, according to his attorney, Neil Papiano, and agent, Tom Knust.

Valenzuela is currently riding at Zia Park in New Mexico and is seeking a conditional license from the California Horse Racing Board that will allow him to ride in this state. Papiano said Sunday that he intended to review the terms of the license over the weekend and thought an agreement could be reached in time for Valenzuela to be named on horses for Friday evening's program. Entries for Friday were expected to be drawn on Tuesday.

Papiano met briefly with Hollywood Park stewards on Sunday to discuss Valenzuela's situation.

Valenzuela, 45, has ridden under a conditional license in California in recent years that has allowed the racing board to conduct random drug testing.

Knust had hoped that Valenzuela could be back at Hollywood Park on Wednesday after missing the first week of the meeting.

Valenzuela was sidelined last November after suffering a rib injury. He subsequently underwent knee surgery, which has kept him sidelined until he returned to riding at Zia Park on Nov. 3.

"He wants to ride here in California," Knust said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to be named on Friday or Saturday and Sunday."

Through Sunday, Valenzuela had ridden 3 winners from 19 mounts at Zia Park.

Jara to return quickly after spill

Jockey Fernando Jara may be sidelined until the weekend after suffering a bruised shoulder in a two-horse spill on Sunday, according to his agent, Bob Meldahl.

Jara, 19, was hospitalized late Sunday afternoon with concern about his collarbone. Meldahl said Jara suffered no breaks, would miss Wednesday and Thursday at Hollywood Park, and "might possibly ride over the weekend."

Jara was thrown from Stretchin the Take after the horse clipped heels with a rival in early stretch of Sunday's sixth race for 2-year-old maidens. Jara was taken to Centinela Hospital and released several hours later.

"We're very, very lucky," Meldahl said Sunday evening.

Jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. was unseated from Dewey's Special in the incident. Valdivia was also hospitalized briefly on Sunday for precautionary X-rays but was not injured.

Stretchin the Take and Dewey's Special were not injured, according to steward Martin Hamilton.

The stewards conducted an inquiry into the fall but did not change the order of finish. The inquiry involved race winner Dee Dee's Legacy, who went past Stretchin the Take before the incident. The stewards ruled that Jara "overcorrected" Stretchin the Take and hit the heels of Dr. Zaentz, who eventually finished second.

Jara, the regular rider of 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor, has ridden in Southern California since mid-September, winning with 3 of 75 mounts.

Well Armed earns shot in Native Diver

Well Armed set a track record of 1:47.88 for 1o1/8 miles on Sunday, a performance that could lead to the 4-year-old colt's American stakes debut in the $100,000 Native Diver Handicap on Dec. 8, trainer Eoin Harty said.

Owned by WinStar Farms, Well Armed led throughout Sunday's allowance race, drawing off to win by 4 1/4 lengths over Rocket Legs. The race was Well Armed's second start for Harty, following a fourth-place finish in an optional claimer for sprinters at Santa Anita last month.

Previously, Well Armed won minor races in England and the Middle East for trainer Clive Brittain. He was 11th in the $2 million UAE Derby in Dubai, emerging from the race with a fractured pelvis, Harty said.

The Native Diver is run at 1 1/8 miles.

Aussie rider Stra gets first U.S. winner

Australian jockey Kayla Stra won her first race in California in Friday's eighth race aboard the longshot Flying Bearcat ($30.40).

Stra, 22, arrived in California in late August and plans to stay through Dec. 28 before returning to Australia.

"I was going to stay for three months and I extended it another month," she said.

Stra (pronounced STRAW), has had 1 win from 16 mounts through Sunday. She rides My Friend Luis in Wednesday's fifth race at Hollywood Park.

Even though she has been present in the stables at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park regularly in recent months, she has not had many opportunities and does not have an agent.

"It was a big relief" to win, she said.

In Australia, she has won more than 200 races, was a leading apprentice jockey, and serves as a spokeswoman for Oakbank Racetrack, near Adelaide.

* Hucking Hot, the winner of Saturday's Audrey Skirball-Kenis Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, is likely to make her stakes debut outside her own age group in the $100,000 Dahlia Handicap against older fillies and mares on Dec. 16, according to co-owner Jim Ford.