09/30/2004 11:00PM

Special Ring's next probably BC Mile

Benoit & Associates
Victory Encounter, winner of the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park, will be sold next month.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Special Ring is unlikely to start in the $250,000 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita on Oct. 9, and will be trained up to a start in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Mile at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30.

That's the strategy that trainer Julio Canani said he would present to owner Jack Preston this weekend.

Canani fears that the 21-day gap between the two stakes is too close for Special Ring to be at his best for the BC Mile.

"You've got to race against the best horses in the world, and you have to ship," Canani said, explaining his concerns. "It's too quick."

Special Ring has not started since winning the Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar on July 25, his only start of 2004. Last year, Special Ring was a troubled eighth in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita, emerging from the race with a muscle injury.

The absence of top miler Special Ring adds to a growing list of top horses skipping lucrative preps in the first weeks of October to wait for Breeders' Cup Day. Pleasantly Perfect, the winner of the 2003 Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita and the $6 million Dubai World Cup last March, did not start in Saturday's $500,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita, a race he won in 2002 and 2003. Pleasantly Perfect has not started since winning the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 22.

Our New Recruit, the winner of the $2 million Golden Shaheen Sprint in Dubai in March, is not expected to start in the $250,000 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap on Oct. 10. He last ran in the restricted Pirate's Bounty Handicap at Del Mar on Sept. 6.

The Oak Tree Mile and Ancient Title are the top stakes at Santa Anita next weekend.

The Oak Tree Mile is expected to be led by Singletary, who has not started since finishing second in the Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile at Hollywood Park in May.

The Ancient Title field likely will be led by Bluesthestandard, the runner-up in the 2003 BC Sprint.

Suspended Valenzuela pursues options

Jockey Patrick Valenzuela is expected to appear before an administrative law judge later this month in an appeal of a steward's decision to suspend him for failing to take a hair-follicle test at Hollywood Park in July.

A hearing date has not been set, according to Valenzuela's attorney, Neil Papiano.

In an effort to resume riding, Valenzuela asked for a stay of his suspension in Los Angeles Superior Court. It was denied on Wednesday.

Valenzuela was suspended by Del Mar stewards on Aug. 6 for the remainder of the year for not taking a hair-follicle test at Hollywood Park on July 1. In addition, stewards Ingrid Fermin, George Slender, and Tom Ward recommended that Valenzuela "not be considered for future licensing by the California Horse Racing Board in any capacity."

Valenzuela was required to take a hair-follicle test as part of an order issued in May by the CHRB.

Valenzuela was suspended for four months by the CHRB on May 18 for missing a mandatory drug test in January, a violation of his conditional license, which has been in place since December 2001. Valenzuela was given three months' credit for time served from late January to late April and served the remaining month in June.

At the upcoming hearing before an administrative law judge, Papiano and lawyers for the CHRB will present arguments. The administrative law judge will then take the matter under consideration before issuing a recommendation to the CHRB. The board will then accept, modify, or deny the recommendation. If the board rules against reinstating Valenzuela, he is likely to seek court action.

Valenzuela was the leading rider at all five major meetings in Southern California in 2003, but his career has been frequently interrupted by substance abuse problems.

Friday, Valenzuela said he has been attending counseling meetings conducted by the Winner's Foundation and doing community service work, which was part of the terms of the CHRB order in May. The Winner's Foundation works with people in racing who have substance abuse problems.

Valenzuela also said on Friday that he is eager to return to riding.

"It's been very disappointing," he said. "I've been doing everything I can to get back to riding. I go to the Winner's Foundation. I've been doing the community service. Money is really tight. I'd like to be riding."

Nakatani's next step might be the courts

Jockey Corey Nakatani's appeal of a 30-day suspension received earlier this year for causing interference that led to a spill was rejected last month by administrative law judge James Ahler.

Santa Anita stewards Pete Pedersen, Fermin, and Ward were expected to issue a 30-day suspension to Nakatani over the weekend. Nakatani is expected to challenge the decision in court.

In a 14-page decision, Ahler concluded that Nakatani did not present new evidence at a hearing at Del Mar on Aug. 26 and that the penalty was within the discretion of the Santa Anita stewards.

The incident that resulted in the suspension occurred on the backstretch of a one-mile turf race for $50,000 claimers on March 6. Nakatani was aboard Mister Cosmi, who struck the rail after he was crowded by Terrifying, who was ridden by Javier Santiago.

Nakatani and Santiago appeared to exchange words before Mister Cosmi then drifted out and bumped Terrifying near the half-mile pole. Terrifying stumbled and unseated Santiago, who was not injured in the fall.

Mister Cosmi was disqualified from eighth and placed last.

Victory Encounter for sale

Victory Encounter, the winner of the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park earlier this year, has been entered in the Keeneland November breeding stock sale, trainer John Sadler said on Friday.

Victory Encounter, 4, has won 7 of 14 starts and $430,887. Tom Mankiewicz has owned Victory Encounter since she was claimed for $32,000 in April 2003.

By Victory Speech, Victory Encounter was a candidate for Sunday's $250,000 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap but was not entered. Sadler said she will stay in training and could start before the sale.

Since the Vanity, Victory Encounter has run a series of subpar races. She ran fourth in the Grade 1 Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park, seventh in the Clement Hirsch Handicap at Del Mar, and second as a heavy favorite in the E.B. Johnston Stakes at Fairplex Park on Sept. 12.

Swiss Lad wins, is pointed to Cal Cup

Swiss Lad is bound for the $125,000 California Cup Juvenile after scoring a five-length win in Thursday's $77,396 Cavonnier Stakes.

Third behind top juveniles Declan's Moon and Roman Ruler in the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 8, Swiss Lad had little trouble with statebred competition in the Cavonnier.

Ridden by Tyler Baze for trainer Jeff Mullins, Swiss Lad dueled with Generalist and Senor Fango through early fractions of 22.67 and 45.17 seconds before pulling away. Generalist finished second, 4 1/2 lengths in front of Johnny High Brite in the field of four.

Swiss Lad ($3) ran the seven furlongs in 1:23.14. He's won 2 of 6 starts and $131,485.

The California Cup Juvenile is run over 1 1/16 miles. "He shouldn't have any trouble getting the distance, not the way he went today," Mullins said. "He was still pricking his ears at the wire."