07/30/2004 11:00PM

Solis gets doctors' nod to go home


DEL MAR, Calif. - Jockey Alex Solis was expected to leave Scripps Memorial Hospital in nearby La Jolla over the weekend, a week after he suffered a cracked vertebra in a one-horse spill at Del Mar on July 21.

In a telephone interview Saturday, Solis said doctors have told him he can leave the hospital whenever he wants. Solis said he will be out for three to six months and plans to use the time to take a lengthy vacation.

Solis underwent surgery last Tuesday to have a rod inserted in his back to stabilize the injury to his T-5 vertebra. He said he has begun physical therapy.

"They took some X-rays last night, and they are happy with how fast it is healing," Solis said Saturday.

Solis said the injury marks his first prolonged absence from riding since 1987. In coming months, he said he intends to spend time with his family and travel. He mentioned the northern California wine country as one spot on his agenda.

"I'm not in a rush," he said. "This is a rare time when I have a chance to take three or four months. I'll enjoy this forced vacation. We get so caught up in the daily thing of losing weight and doing the routine every day, we take things for granted. I'm kind of bummed out this happening, but I'm grateful that I'm alive."

He admits he may want to return before his body is ready.

"I will push myself not to come back too early," he said. "Your mind may be ready, but your body is not."

Icantgoforthat out to enhance resume

Six months from a scheduled retirement, Icantgoforthat revived her career with an upset win in Friday's $96,825 Daisycutter Handicap at Del Mar.

The win has trainer Steve Knapp considering the 5-year-old mare for the $150,000 Rancho Bernardo Handicap on Aug. 21, a Grade 3 for fillies and mares over 6 1/2 furlongs.

A win in a graded dirt stakes is missing from Icantgoforthat's record of 7 wins in 32 starts and earnings of $468,284 for owners Palmer Knapp and Andy Broberg. She won the

Grade 3 Monrovia Handicap on turf at Santa Anita last year.

"She really loves training on the dirt down here," Knapp said.

In the Daisycutter, Icantgoforthat was ridden by Joe Steiner and led throughout the five-furlong turf race. Icantgoforthat ($46.40) was timed in 55.95 seconds, finishing three-quarters of a length in front of Market Garden. Lady General, a 38-1 shot, finished third of eight. Belleski, the even-money favorite, had a troubled trip and finished fourth.

Icantgoforthat had finished last of six under Steiner in the Vacaville Handicap on dirt at the Solano County Fair in Vallejo on July 17.

"She threw in a bad one that day," Steiner said. "She really loves the turf. She never stopped."

Steiner was a late replacement on Friday for David Flores, who took off, complaining of shoulder pain.

The victory was Icantgoforthat's first since the Monrovia Handicap last December. She will be bred next year.

Valenzuela's grooming in question

Questions whether Patrick Valenzuela shaved his armpits and the area around his groin earlier this summer, and was consequently unable to take a hair-follicle test in early July, dominated a hearing before the Del Mar stewards Friday. It was the second day of the hearing, which began Thursday.

The hearing, held in the stewards' office, concerned Valenzuela's failure to take a hair-follicle test on July 1. Valenzuela, 41, was suspended July 2 for failing to comply with the terms of his conditional license, which requires that he submit to hair-follicle testing. The suspension came one day after Valenzuela returned from a 30-day ban for failing to submit to a mandatory drug test in January.

In early July, Valenzuela argued that he could not submit to the hair-follicle test because he customarily shaved his body hair. Valenzuela has very little hair on his balding head. Friday, the stewards heard testimony from jockeys Tyler Baze and Danny Sorenson and jockey's room masseur David Stark who stated that Valenzuela had hair on his armpits and pubic hair earlier this year.

The California Horse Racing Board's senior investigator, Mike Kilpack, said that Valenzuela did not have hair in his pubic region in early July when he was asked to submit to a urine test, which was negative.

"It looked to be recently shaven, and there appeared to be redness in the area," Kilpack said.

Hair-follicle tests are conducted to provide a recent indication of potential substance abuse. Valenzuela, who has a history of substance abuse problems that have interrupted his career, faces possible sanctions for failing to submit to the hair-follicle test. His attorney, Neil Papiano, argued at Thursday's hearing that Valenzuela was never told how long his hair needed to be.

The hearing was scheduled to conclude Sunday.