01/19/2004 1:00AM

Valenzuela fires his agent


Jockey Patrick Valenzuela, who last year was the leading rider at all five major Southern California meetings, fired his agent, Nick Cosato, on Sunday.

Cosato had represented Valenzuela since the rider was reinstated two years ago, after being exiled for substance-abuse issues. Last month, Cosato also began representing jockey Corey Nakatani. Both Cosato and Valenzuela agreed Monday at Santa Anita that the addition of Nakatani was the source of friction.

"It's unfortunate this has to happen," Valenzuela said. "I love Nick. I think he's a great agent. I never should have agreed to let him have two jocks. I've never felt that that's a good idea. I just don't feel comfortable."

Agents in Southern California are allowed to represent two riders. Cosato had worked exclusively for Valenzuela until last month. He added Nakatani around the time Valenzuela, citing illness, missed several days of riding at Hollywood Park.

Valenzuela said he had yet to hire a replacement, but he interviewed several agents Monday morning. A major sticking point with several established agents is Valenzuela's desire to be an agent's sole jockey. The best agents on this circuit already are employed by a top rider.

Cosato said his final day working for Valenzuela was Monday, when entries were taken for Thursday's Santa Anita races. He said he did not want to comment further on the reasons for his split with Valenzuela.