02/04/2002 1:00AM

Valenzuela a longshot specialist


ARCADIA, Calif. - In the last week, Patrick Valenzuela has forced bettors to respect all of his mounts.

Since he returned from a suspension for a substance abuse violation on Dec. 26, Valenzuela has ridden only six winners, but last weekend two of them were longshots. Last Friday, Valenzuela provided the shock of the day aboard Villanelle ($67.40). Saturday, he won the Pro or Con Handicap with Ta Ta Be True ($32.60).

Wednesday, Valenzuela has four mounts on the eight-race program - Inwood in the third race, Fall for Me in the fourth, Irish Terry in the sixth, and Tangara in the seventh race.

Valenzuela, 39, has yet to crack the top 10 in the jockey standings, but feels his business is improving. Prior to this meeting, Valenzuela was away for 20 months due to a substance abuse violation, an issue that has plagued his career.

"Things are really going good," Valenzuela said on Sunday. "I don't know if I'm in a groove yet or not, but I'm riding a lot of horses and they're running well."

Wednesday, Valenzuela's best chance may be Fall for Me in the fourth race. Trained by Vladimir Cerin, Fall for Me was second in a maiden race over 5 1/2 furlongs on dirt on Jan. 12 to the highly regarded True Monarch. Wednesday, Fall for Me drew the rail in a wide-open turf race on the hillside course.

Tangara will be a longshot in the day's feature race, a $54,000 optional claimer over 1 1/4 miles on turf. The race drew nine, including Narasimha and Bring Plenty, who were narrow losers of allowance races on turf in their last starts. Narasimha, trained by Bobby Frankel, is the likely favorite.

Tangara, trained by Roger Stein, was sixth in a one-mile allowance race at Santa Anita on Jan. 21, but was beaten only 2 1/2 lengths. Last year in New Zealand, Tangara was beaten 1 3/4 lengths in a Group 2 over 1 1/4 miles on turf.

Valenzuela said he does not have any goals for this meeting. Ta Ta Be True was his first stakes win since Dixie Dot Com won the San Pasqual Handicap in January 2000. He would like to get back to the Kentucky Derby, a race he won in 1989 aboard Sunday Silence.

"I'd love to ride the Derby this year and find a nice 3-year-old," he said. "It's a long way down the road. I'm thankful to be back."

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