05/18/2004 11:00PM

Valenzuela undecided on any further appeal


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Jockey Patrick Valenzuela, who was suspended for four months by the California Horse Racing Board on Tuesday for missing a mandatory drug test in January but given credit for three months served earlier this year, said Wednesday that he has not decided whether to appeal.

Valenzuela was informed of the decision by telephone on Tuesday but said he was waiting to receive an official copy. He can appeal the decision through the court system or accept the penalty.

"I have not received the ruling yet," he said Wednesday morning. "I want to check it out first."

Valenzuela will serve the remaining month of the suspension beginning June 1. He will ride through May.

The ruling requires that Valenzuela serve 100 hours of community service this year and be available for hair-follicle and urine tests.

"It could have been worse," said Valenzuela's agent, Corey Black.

The racing board reached the decision on Tuesday after a 95-minute hearing and a two-hour private meeting. Although the board did not explain the basis for its ruling, Roger Licht, a commisioner, said: "We're not restricted by anything. We could have given him zero or life."

Valenzuela missed a mandatory drug test on Jan. 22, was suspended the following day for missing the test, and subsequently had his one-year conditional license terminated by Santa Anita stewards on April 2 for the remainder of the year.

Valenzuela, 41, received a stay from the racing board on April 16 that allowed him to resume riding until an appeal was heard. He was credited Tuesday with the time he missed from Jan. 22 until he resumed riding on April 25 after receiving the stay.

Valenzuela testified on Tuesday that he was not available for the drug test because he was fighting depression caused by a failed marriage and a reaction to an antidepressant.

Since his return on April 25, Valenzuela has become the leading rider at Hollywood Park. Tuesday's decision did not surprise jockey Danny Sorenson, a Jockeys' Guild representative at Hollywood Park. He said he felt the penalty could have been more severe.

"They had to put out some form of penalty," Sorenson said. "I think they could have upheld the earlier stewards' ruling. Essentially, all they gave him was 30 days."