08/01/2004 11:00PM

Valenzuela decision pending

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DEL MAR, Calif. - After listening to nearly eight hours of testimony over three days, the Del Mar stewards concluded a hearing on Sunday regarding jockey Patrick Valenzuela's failure to take a hair-follicle test on July 1.

After the hearing, stewards Ingrid Fermin, George Slender, and Tom Ward indicated that they would issue a decision "in three or four days," Slender said.

Valenzuela could be reinstated or suspended. Valenzuela said he was disappointed that a decision was not issued on Sunday.

"I just want to ride," Valenzuela said. "I was hoping they would make a decision to give my license back."

Valenzuela, 41, said he intended to resume exercising horses in coming days to be ready in the event he is reinstated.

Valenzuela, who has a history of substance abuse problems, was summarily suspended on July 2 for failing to take the hair-follicle test on July 1.

The hair-follicle test was a requirement of his conditional license. The suspension came one day after Valenzuela returned from a 30-day ban for failing to submit to a mandatory drug test in January. A hearing on that case was held before the seven members of the California Horse Racing Board at Hollywood Park in May.

Valenzuela was unable to take the hair-follicle test because he didn't have sufficient hair to test. He had shaved the hair on his body, including under his arms and in his pubic region, and has close-cropped hair on his balding head.

During Sunday's closing argument, attorney Neil Papiano, representing Valenzuela, contended that the jockey was never instructed as to how long his hair needed to be for hair-follicle testing.

"No notice was given as to the hair length required," Papiano said. "He never said he wouldn't give the follicles. He never refused to take any test. He stands ready to take any test."

Papiano further argued that Valenzuela passed two urine tests for drugs in early July.

James Ahern, a deputy attorney general representing the CHRB before the stewards, argued that the suspension should be upheld because Valenzuela was given proper notice by mail that he would be subject to a hair-follicle test, and because Valenzuela has "a history of disciplinary action."

Ahern also noted that jockeys Tyler Baze and Danny Sorenson and jockeys' room masseur David Stark testified that Valenzuela had hair on his body earlier this year.

The hearing was held in the Del Mar stewards' office over three days - Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. On Sunday, testimony was heard from CHRB investigators Mike Kilpack and Richard Guerrero and from Valenzuela.

Valenzuela testified that he never read the terms of the conditional license set forth by an administrative law judge following the 30-day suspension issued by the board in May. Valenzuela said he heard about the hair-follicle provision from his agent, Corey Black, and other jockeys.