04/12/2012 3:25PM

Santa Anita: Valenzuela plans comeback at Hollywood Park


ARCADIA, Calif. – Jockey Patrick Valenzuela’s retirement apparently lasted four months.

Thursday, Valenzuela said is planning a return to riding at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting that begins on April 26.

Valenzuela, 49, has not ridden since Nov. 13 at Hollywood Park. He announced his retirement a month later, but said on Thursday he is ready for a comeback.

“I’m going to give it my best shot,” Valenzuela said. “I feel healthy. I’ve been running and I feel really good.

“I’ve been watching the races at home. My passion is racing. Over the last month , I’ve debated whether to come back. I don’t feel any reason why I can’t come back.”

Valenzuela has won 4,333 races in a career marred by substance abuse problems that left him suspended for lengthy periods. He is well known for winning the 1989 Kentucky Derby on Sunday Silence.

Valenzuela left the sport abruptly last fall. He was scheduled to ride at Hollywood Park on Nov. 17, but did not appear to ride that day.

Valenzuela later said he made an emergency trip to Kansas to visit his fiancee’s family. He was later fined $1,000 for his absence.

In early December, Valenzuela announced that he was retiring, citing a gall bladder operation that he underwent in Kansas in November and a near constant battle with weight as two of the main reasons. In a meeting with Hollywood Park stewards on Dec. 18, Valenzuela said he did not plan a return to riding, and hoped to begin a career doing racing commentary on television.

On two occasions from mid-November to mid-December, once in Kansas and once in California, Valenzuela underwent drug tests which were negative, California Horse Racing Board investigators said in December.

Valenzuela said in recent months he has improved his diet, which has helped him keep weight down.

“I’ve been taken care of myself and eating a lot different,” he said.

Valenzuela said his knees, which have caused him problems in the past, are not an issue, but admitted that they have not been exposed to the rigors of riding of late.

“I haven’t been riding and my knees have been a lot better,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see. I haven’t rode a race. It’s not like I’ll be riding eight horses a day.“

Valenzuela said he plans to begin exercising horses by next weekend. He will be represented by Tom Knust, his agent before his departure last fall.