12/31/2001 12:00AM

Valenzuela gets a winner


ARCADIA, Calif. - Jockey Patrick Valenzuela won his first race in nearly two years when Rich Musique led throughout the third race at Santa Anita on Monday.

Valenzuela, whose career has been plagued by substance abuse problems that have led to suspensions, returned to a rousing reception from the crowd gathered near the winner's circle.

"That lifts you up so much," he said.

The 39-year-old Valenzuela resumed riding on Dec. 26. He was re-licensed in mid-December after months of talks with the California Horse Racing Board. One of the conditions of the license is that he submit to random drug testing.

The winner of the 1989 Kentucky Derby on Sunday Silence, Valenzuela had not ridden since February 2000 when he violated the terms of a conditional jockey's license.

Rich Musique ($16.60) was Valenzuela's 14th mount of the meeting. He had finished second once and third in two races in the first four racing days of the Santa Anita meeting.

"A couple of the horses had run good," Valenzuela said. "I can't complain."

Puglisi out four to six weeks

Jockey Iggy Puglisi faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines after suffering three fractured vertebrae and a broken right knee in a two-horse spill at Los Alamitos on Saturday.

Puglisi remained hospitalized at Los Alamitos Medical Center on Monday and was expected to remain there until midweek, according to his agent, Richie Silverstein.

Puglisi, 27, will not need surgery, Silverstein said, but will be fitted with a brace for his back and knee that will leave him immobilized. Silverstein said the earliest that Puglisi could begin rehabilitation is "four to six weeks." Puglisi could be off horses for several months.

Silverstein and several of the jockey's friends said that Puglisi was fortunate not to have suffered a catastrophic injury. For a brief time late Saturday, Puglisi was complaining of lost feeling in his lower body, but he regained feeling a few hours later.

"He's got all his feeling back," Silverstein said. "He's only in the hospital right now for pain management. He could be hospitalized until mid-week."

Puglisi was making a rare appearance at Los Alamitos on Saturday, riding Corwyn Belle, the 4-5 favorite, in a sprint for Thoroughbreds over 4 1/2 furlongs. On the backstretch, Corwyn Belle tripped over Fresh Currency, who fell while on the lead. Baltazar Contreras, who rode Fresh Currency, was not injured in the accident.

Puglisi had two mounts earlier on Saturday at Santa Anita, but was winless. At the recently concluded Hollywood Park meeting, he finished in a tie for 14th place among riders with eight wins.

Dubai trip the goal for I Love Silver

I Love Silver, who finished third in the Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26, will reappear in a stakes in January, trainer Dean Greenman said. A decision will be made next week whether I Love Silver starts in the $200,000 San Fernando Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 12 or the $150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap over six furlongs on Jan. 27.

"The San Fernando is coming back a little quick," Greenman said. "The backup plan is the Palos Verdes."

Greenman said I Love Silver's long-term goal is the $1 million Dubai Duty Free in the Middle East on March 23, which is run over a one-turn mile on dirt.

Upset win for Hot Contest

Hot Contest pulled an upset in an important maiden race for 2-year-olds on Sunday and in doing so came under consideration for the Santa Anita Derby in April.

The second-longest shot in a field of eight, Hot Contest ($53.40) rallied past both Strive and Distinction in the last sixteenth to win by a half-length, finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.64.

Ridden by Brice Blanc, Hot Contest rallied wide, making up nine lengths from the middle of the turn.

Owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis and trained by Ray Bell, Hot Contest beat a well-stocked field. Strive, a Deputy Minister colt trained by Bob Baffert, was the 8-5 favorite after finishing a fast-closing third in his debut last month at Hollywood Park. Distinction, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, cost $4.2 million as a yearling and gave the best performance of his five-race career.

Sunday's race was Hot Contest's third start, following two sixth-place finishes at Hollywood Park in November and December, and his first start around two turns.

Purchased for $120,000 as a yearling, Hot Contest is by Tabasco Cat, the winner of the 1994 Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Bell is hoping to find an allowance race before Hot Contest tries the top 3-year-olds on the circuit in stakes.

Lord Flasheart wins for Frankel

Nearly 18 months after arriving from France, Lord Flasheart made a successful United States debut with a victory in an allowance race on Sunday, joining a lengthy list of older turf horses trained by Bobby Frankel.

A 5-year-old, Lord Flasheart was making his first start since finishing second in the 2000 French Derby. He was purchased privately by Edmund Gann before that race but was unable to start in the U.S. later that year because of a tibia injury, Frankel said.

After the tibia healed, a splint bone injury further delayed his debut in this country.

"It took patience," Frankel said. "He wasn't going too good when I first got him, but he's better now."

In Sunday's allowance race, Lord Flasheart was favored despite the layoff. Ridden by Chris McCarron, he closed from last to win by a length over Straight Flush and Big Board, two recent imports from South America trained by Richard Mandella.

A two-time stakes winner, Lord Flasheart may reappear in the $150,000 San Marcos Handicap over 1 1/4 miles on turf on Jan. 21.

After Sunday's San Gabriel Handicap, trainer Neil Drysdale mentioned the Grade 2 San Marcos as a possible next start for Irish Prize.

Bella Bella Bella gets in work

Bella Bella Bella, unbeaten in two starts, worked six furlongs in 1:11.60 before Sunday's races in preparation for the Santa Ysabel Stakes next Sunday. Trained by Jenine Sahadi, Bella Bella Bella will be trying two turns for the first time in the Santa Ysabel, which is run over 1 1/16 miles for 3-year-old fillies.

The Santa Ysabel will have a short field that will include No Turbulence and Tamarack Bay.

Wooden Phone, the expected favorite in Saturday's $200,000 San Pasqual Handicap on Saturday, worked five furlongs in 58.80 seconds on Monday, the fastest of 45 works at the distance. Wooden Phone won the Strub Stakes over this track last February.

Spawr fined for positive test

Trainer Bill Spawr was fined $1,000 on Saturday after one of his starters at the Fairplex Park meeting last September tested positive for Methocarbamol, a muscle relaxant.

Magic's Flow, who won the eighth race on Sept. 13, tested positive for the medication, which is not allowed to appear in postrace tests. Magic's Flow won a $5,000 claimer over 6 1/2 furlongs as the even-money favorite.