Updated on 09/17/2011 12:10PM

Valenzuela sweeps all five California titles

Email

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - He missed five days with the flu and had to stave off belated challenges from Victor Espinoza and Tyler Baze, but jockey Patrick Valenzuela still prevailed at the fall Hollywood Park meeting, while becoming only the second jockey to win all five major Southern California meetings in the same year.

Valenzuela won 27 races, three more than Espinoza and four more than Baze and Julie Krone, who missed the final seven days of the meet after fracturing ribs in an accident on Dec. 12. The meet ended on Sunday. Valenzuela's title at Hollywood follows titles at Santa Anita last winter, Hollywood in the spring, Del Mar in the summer, and the Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita in the fall.

"This gives me the satisfaction of knowing I'm doing my best on a daily basis and not squandering the opportunities I've been given," Valenzuela said while wolfing down a celebratory postrace meal in the jockeys' room. "It's always important to try to win every meet. I give 110 percent on every horse I ride, and the results of that are what happened this year.

"Maybe this will impress the Eclipse Award voters, huh? But I don't think I can beat the other guy," he said, referring to Jerry Bailey.

Valenzuela joins Chris McCarron as the only other rider to have achieved this feat. McCarron did it in 1983.

Valenzuela's performance was the highlight of a meeting that was hampered by short fields, but was invigorated by some terrific stakes racing. Heat Haze unleashed a furious rally to take the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes during the Autumn Turf Festival. She was named horse of the meeting by the media. Lion Heart stamped himself as one of the nation's leading 2-year-old colts when he captured the Hollywood Futurity.

Jeff Mullins won his first Southern California training title. He won 13 races to beat Doug O'Neill and Bobby Frankel by one victory. Mullins sent out just 38 starters, compared to 95 for O'Neill and 41 for Frankel.

Hollywood Park's ontrack attendance averaged 6,516, a gain of nearly 1 percent from a year ago. Overall handle was down 1.3 percent, averaging $8,991,717 per card.

"Even though the major races during this meet were outstanding, we were plagued by short fields on many days," Rick Baedeker, Hollywood Park's president, said in a statement. "To do better - and attract more horses - we've got to make it more affordable to race in California."