05/10/2005 11:00PM

Turf Paradise track report


Patrick Valenzuela made a rare visit to Turf Paradise a week and a half ago to take three mounts, and although he finished off the board in all three rides, he still managed to make quite an impression, particularly on young apprentice Kristina Kenney.

While Valenzuela has won a number of big races, including a Kentucky Derby, Kenney was making her career debut in the final race of the day on May 3 and admits to being a nervous wreck. Valenzuela, 43, the leading rider at the recently concluded Santa Anita meet, apparently sensed her anxiety and tried to help.

"Let the horse do the running and you do the riding," Kenney said he told her.

"He was so kind," said Kenney, 23, a native of Phoenix. "He also signed my helmet, 'Good luck and many winners, P. Val.' He told me to stay focused and pay attention."

Well, it worked. Kenney promptly went out and won, bringing home Zephyr Cove ($23) for trainer Myron Kumke, who also happens to be her father.

"He even signed my program," said Kenney. "'You outrode my butt,' he wrote." Valenzuela finished sixth.

* California-based Habaneros, a troubled second in the $40,000 Wildcat Handicap here April 30, will reportedly return for the $50,000 Hasta La Vista Handicap on May 22, closing day of the current meet. Habaneros was the upset winner of the Grade 3 Carleton F. Burke at Santa Anita last fall.

* Muir Beach, likely to be named horse of the meet after four stakes wins here this season for trainer Dan McFarlane, shipped to Southern California and faced some of the big girls in the Grade 2 Hawthorne Handicap at Hollywood Park last Saturday. Muir Beach finished fourth, almost five lengths behind the winner, Hollywood Story.

Stablemate and fellow Arizona shipper Virden, likely to be named the top 3-year-old filly of this Turf Paradise meet, had better success at Hollywood Park on Sunday. Virden jumped right out to the lead at 26-1 in the Grade 3 Senorita at a mile on the turf, set comfortable splits, and just managed to hold on for the upset.