12/01/2011 5:22PM

Valenzuela may see stewards Sunday


INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Jockey Patrick Valenzuela is expected to return to riding at Santa Anita on Dec. 26 after undergoing recent gall bladder surgery.

Tom Knust, Valenzuela’s agent, said on Thursday that the jockey is expected to return to California this weekend, and is still recovering from the Nov. 24 operation. Knust said the Dec. 26 opening day of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting is the targeted date for a comeback. A return at the current Hollywood Park fall meeting, which runs through Dec. 18, is unlikely, Knust said.

Valenzuela has visited his fiancee’s family in Kansas since mid-November. “He may see the stewards on Sunday,” Knust said. “He won’t ride again until the next meeting, or maybe the last of this meet, but I’m not looking at anything until the next meeting.

“It will be another two weeks before he gets on a horse. There is no reason to rush it.”

Valenzuela, 49, has not ridden since Nov. 13 at Hollywood Park. He did not appear at Hollywood Park to ride on Nov. 17 and did not contact Knust or track stewards until the following day to discuss his absence. The following day, the rider said he had traveled to Kansas.

Before he can resume riding, Valenzuela must meet with track stewards, show proof that he traveled to Kansas, and pass a drug test. The jockey won the 1989 Kentucky Derby on Sunday Silence, but has a history of substance abuse problems that have interrupted his career.

Hollywood Park stewards said in late November that Valenzuela underwent a drug test in Kansas and passed.

Valenzuela did not return a Thursday phone call seeking comment.

Valenzuela is the senior member of the jockeys’ room and has been a fixture among the top 10 riders in the Southern California circuit this year. At the recently concluded Santa Anita autumn meeting, Valenzuela finished in a tie for fifth in the standings. His biggest win this year came in the $1 million Pacific Classic aboard Acclamation at Del Mar in August.