11/05/2007 12:00AM

Valenzuela resumes race-riding

EmailJockey Patrick Valenzuela returned to the saddle for the first time in nearly a year over the weekend, and won with 2 of 8 mounts at Zia Park in Hobbs, N.M. Valenzuela had not ridden because of injury since November 2006.

On Monday, Valenzuela said that he will ride at Zia through next Sunday and is hoping to start riding at Hollywood Park on Nov. 14. He is trying to get licensed to ride in California.

In his comeback on Saturday he won with two of his four mounts, scoring with his second and third rides. Three of the races were at a mile and the other at six furlongs.

"I feel really good," Valenzuela said Monday. "To ride three mile races in a row and a three-quarters, four races in a row, was a challenge. But by the grace of the good Lord I was very fortunate to win two and had a pretty good day."

In his first mount back, in the sixth race Saturday, Valenzuela finished fourth aboard Strong Force. He won the seventh race aboard favored Devil Action for Henry Dominguez, New Mexico's leading trainer, and the eighth with Must Be a Trooper. In the ninth, he finished sixth on My Pizazz.

In four mounts on Sunday he finished third, fourth, fifth, and sixth.

Valenzuela had never ridden at Zia before Saturday, but he was raised near Sunland Park and has ridden in New Mexico many times.

"I grew up with most of the people back here, so it's like coming home to my family," he said. "Henry Dominguez used to ride for my father, A.C. Valenzuela, when he was young. Henry was a jockey. I know all the Dominguez family, and they know my family well. The horsemen here have opened their arms and welcomed me back."

Valenzuela, 45, had originally hoped to begin riding at Hollywood on Wednesday. According to his agent, Tom Knust, Valenzuela's attorney, Neil Papiano, has yet to review the terms of a conditional license offered by the California Horse Racing Board.

Last week, Knust said the seven-page conditional license presented to Valenzuela was similar to the terms of his previous licenses, which required the jockey to undergo random drug testing and pay for the tests. Valenzuela, who won the 1989 Kentucky Derby, has had a history of substance abuse problems that have disrupted his career.

He sustained three broken ribs last November when he was kicked by a horse at Hollywood. During his time away from the races he also tended to a knee injury, having a gel put in one of his joints and undergoing physical therapy. He said his doctors released him to ride on Oct. 20.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen