09/07/2006 12:00AM

Valenzuela needs clearance


Jockey Patrick Valenzuela, who has not ridden since July 16 after being hospitalized for undisclosed reasons, received approval from the Del Mar stewards Wednesday to begin exercising horses. He will not, however, be allowed to resume race-riding until he completes a hair follicle drug test and provides detailed medical information about his absence.

Valenzuela, who has a history of substance abuse problems, passed a drug test 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."

Chaney said that Valenzuela, 43, would have to schedule an appointment with California Horse Racing Board investigators for a hair follicle test.

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

Valenzuela has not ridden since 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.

Valenzuela rides under a provisional jockey's license that requires him to undergo drug testing at the racing board's discretion.