09/06/2006 12:00AM

Valenzuela gets approval to exercise horses


DEL MAR, Calif. - Jockey Patrick Valenzuela, who has not ridden since July 16 after being hospitalized, received approval from the Del Mar stewards on Wednesday to begin exercising horses, but will not be allowed to resume race riding until he completes a hair follicle drug test and provides doctor's information detailing the reasons for his recent absence.

Valenzuela, who has a history of substance abuse problems, passed a drug test on Wednesday and provided a doctor's statement saying that he had recovered from a back injury, according to steward Scott Chaney.

Chaney said Valenzuela was not granted clearance to ride until further documents are provided.

"He's not technically suspended," Chaney said. "Given the obvious history, we thought it's prudent to investigate what he's been doing over the last month before he's named on horses. He's going to set up an appointment with (California Horse Racing Board) investigators for a hair follicle test."

Valenzuela's agent, Tom Knust, has not disclosed why Valenzuela was hospitalized. Valenzuela was not available for comment.

Valenzuela, 43, indicated to the stewards that he wanted to ride the Woodbine Mile card at Woodbine on Sept. 17.

Valenzuela has not ridden since the closing day of the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting. At the time, Knust said Valenzuela had suffered a back injury. The hospitalization was disclosed in early August.

Because of his personal history, Valenzuela rides under a provisional jockey's license that requires him to undergo drug testing at the CHRB discretion.