04/15/2004 12:00AM

Valenzuela asks state board to let him ride during appeal


ARCADIA, Calif. - Jockey Patrick Valenzuela, whose conditional license was terminated by Santa Anita stewards on April 2 after he missed a mandatory drug test in January, has asked the California Horse Racing Board for a stay that would allow him to resume riding while he appeals the termination of his license.

Board chairman John Harris said a decision on Valenzuela's request could be made soon.

If the board grants a stay, Valenzuela could begin riding immediately. If the stay is denied, Valenzuela is likely to go to court to ask for the right to resume riding until an appeal on his license is heard.

In either scenario, it could be several months before a formal appeal on his license is heard by an administrative law judge, who would issue a recommendation to the board.

"We're weighing all the different factors," Harris said.

Harris said the board might grant Valenzuela a stay that would have more controls on it, calling it "a conditional stay."

Harris said Valenzuela would be expected to submit to drug testing in terms similar to those of the conditional license.

Earlier this week, Valenzuela met with Harris, board senior investigator Mike Kilpack, and representatives of the Winners' Foundation, which helps people in racing with substance-abuse problems. Valenzuela declined to elaborate on the meeting.

Valenzuela said that he would like to return to riding as soon as possible and that he is close to his riding weight.

"I'm crossing my fingers and praying," he said. "I'm about five pounds overweight. I'll be anxious to get on as soon as I get my license, if I get my license."

Valenzuela, 41, won riding titles at the five major meetings in Southern California in 2003, but his career has been troubled by substance-abuse.

He was riding under a one-year conditional license when he missed a drug test on Jan. 22. He said he was unable to submit to the test because he had injured an ankle at home.

Valenzuela has ridden under the terms of a conditional license since December 2001, when he was reinstated after a 22-month absence for a substance-abuse violation.

The conditional license was renewed annually, most recently in December. The license mandated that Valenzuela be available for drug or alcohol testing when requested by stewards.

Meteor Storm good to go

Meteor Storm, the winner of the San Luis Rey Handicap at 1 1/2 miles on March 20, will start in Sunday's $250,000 San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap after trainer Wally Dollase inspected the Santa Anita turf course on Thursday.

"I walked the turf course and it's in good shape," he said. "It's very good and safe. I went up the hill, even. We'll be in there."

Meteor Storm will be the favorite and 116-pound highweight in the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano, which is run at the marathon distance of about 1 3/4 miles. Jose Valdivia Jr. has the mount. The San Juan Capistrano is the feature race on the closing day of the meeting.

The race has drawn eight other entrants: All the Boys, Special Matter, Gene de Campeao, Runaway Dancer, White Buck, Rhythm Mad, Gigli, and Ringaskiddy, the winner of the 2002 San Juan Capistrano, who has fought injuries in recent years.

All the Boys finished second in the 2003 San Juan Capistrano, emerging from the race with soreness in his hind legs and requiring a lengthy rest. He returned in December and has one victory in three starts since then.

"He really excels at the longer distances," trainer Paul Aguirre said. "It's the best place to run him."

Last year, All the Boys took the lead in early stretch and was caught near the finish by Passinetti, losing by a half-length.

"He just got caught late," Aguirre said. "It was a nice effort. I think this year's field is better than last year's."

Sweet Return works on turf

Sweet Return, the winner of three consecutive stakes, including the Frank Kilroe Mile on March 6, worked seven furlongs on turf in 1:29.60 on Thursday.

Trained by Ron McAnally, Sweet Return, 4, will make his next start in the $400,000 Woodford Reserve Classic over 1 1/8 miles on turf at Churchill Downs on May 1, the Kentucky Derby program.

McAnally said the two-month break between the Kilroe Mile and the Woodford Reserve is not a concern. "We haven't asked much of him," he said. "We've kept him fit."

McAnally said Gary Stevens is likely to ride Sweet Return. Stevens, currently riding first-string for trainer Andre Fabre in France, is hoping to ride Rock Hard Ten in the Kentucky Derby. Rock Hard Ten is not guaranteed a spot in the 20-horse field because he does not have strong graded-stakes earnings, the tiebreaker if more than 20 enter.

McAnally said Stevens may ride House of Fortune in the Kentucky Oaks on April 30. House of Fortune won the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park on April 9. McAnally is waiting to hear whether Alex Solis will retain the mount on House of Fortune. Solis has options to ride A.P. Adventure and Halfbridled.

Alozaina rallies to win feature

McAnally captured Wednesday's feature when Alozaina rallied wide in early stretch to win the third race of her career, a $56,000 allowance for fillies and mares.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Alozaina ($19.40) closed from last in a field of six in the final quarter-mile to beat an unlucky Light Jig by a nose. Alozaina ran a mile on turf in 1:35.04.

Light Jig, the 1-2 favorite, was blocked in early stretch and made up 1 1/2 lengths in the final furlong to just miss.

Alozaina had similar tough trips in two of her last three starts. Owned by Arnold Zetcher, Alozaina, 5, was third in the American Oaks and Del Mar Oaks in 2002. She could appear in turf stakes at the upcoming Hollywood Park meeting.

Juvenile sets two-furlong record

Whatsthenameman, a 2-year-old making his second start, set a two-furlong track record of 21.09 seconds with a two-length win in Thursday's second race.

Trained by Frank Monteleone for Exotic Soup Stable, Whatsthename-man had been second in his debut on April 2.

Two-furlong races are run at Santa Anita only for 2-year-olds in the spring.