08/06/2004 11:00PM

Valenzuela vows to fight suspension

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Jockey Patrick Valenzuela vowed on Friday to fight his suspension for failing to take a hair-follicle test last month, but is unlikely to resume riding until the appeals process is played out.

On Friday, Del Mar stewards Ingrid Fermin, George Slender, and Tom Ward suspended Valenzuela through Dec. 31, the rest of the term of his conditional license; denied him access to racetrack grounds; and recommended to the California Horse Racing Board that Valenzuela "not be considered for future licensing in any capacity."

Valenzuela, who has a history of substance abuse problems that have interrupted his career, was notified of the decision by his lawyer, Neil Papiano. Valenzuela said he was in Dallas attending a funeral on Friday.

Valenzuela has not ridden since July 1. He was summarily suspended on July 2 for failure to take the hair-follicle test on July 1. At the time, Valenzuela argued that he was unable to take the test because he had shaved his body, including the hair on his head, armpits, and pubic area.

The hair-follicle test was a requirement of his conditional license. The July 2 suspension came one day after Valenzuela returned from a 30-day ban for failing to submit to a mandatory drug test in January.

"I was never advised what length of hair to grow," Valenzuela said. "I didn't do a thing wrong. I got suspended for people assuming that I did something wrong."

Papiano described the ruling as a "death penalty." He argued that Valenzuela should not be suspended because he passed urine tests on July 1, has not tested positive for drugs since 2000, and was never told how long his hair needed to be for hair-follicle testing.

In their statement of decision, the stewards said that Valenzuela found a way to evade hair-follicle testing and was in violation of his license.

"[Valenzuela] has been a talented jockey for many years, but it is evident that he has failed to learn that he must be accountable for the consequences of his behavior," the statement said.

Valenzuela can request a stay from the CHRB, allowing him to ride. If the stay is denied, he can request a temporary restraining order from Superior Court, which would allow him to ride until an appeal is heard before the board.

An appeal, which would be heard by an administrative law judge, might not be scheduled for several months. But there is precedent for a faster remedy. In April, Valenzuela was suspended for the remainder of 2004 for failing to submit to the mandatory drug test in January. The CHRB took the unprecedented step of meeting at Hollywood Park in May to hear Valenzuela's appeal. In their ruling, the CHRB modified the ruling of the Santa Anita stewards. They suspended Valenzuela for four months, but gave him credit for three months served early in the year. The remaining month was served in June.

Valenzuela said Friday that he expects to win an appeal. Last year, he won riding titles at five meetings in Southern California.

So far this year, he has ridden for about two months - the first three weeks of January and a five-week period from late April through May.

Valenzuela did not ride from the end of January until April 25 because of his absence from the drug test in January. When Valenzuela began his 30-day suspension in June, he was the leading rider at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting.

"The $2 bettor will be glad that I'll be back," he said. "Whether it's tomorrow or the next day, the $2 bettors will be happy. And I'll be happy. The owners who want a good rider that gives 110 percent will be happy."

Areyoutalkintome will stay in sprints for now

Areyoutalkintome will stay in sprints following his first stakes win in Friday's $100,000 Real Good Deal for statebreds.

Trained by Doug O'Neill, Areyoutalkintome ($7.20) closed from last to win the seven-furlong Real Good Deal by three lengths in 1:21.71. The victory left O'Neill wondering whether Areyoutalkintome could be effective in longer races, but he is uncertain he wants to change the game plan in coming months.

"He may just be a one-turn horse," he said.

Claimed for $32,000 last December by O'Neill, Ron Manzani, and Russ Sarno, Areyoutalkintome is being pointed for the $150,000 California Cup Sprint over six furlongs at Oak Tree on Oct. 16.

In the Real Good Deal Stakes, Areyoutalkintome trailed by as many as seven lengths on the backstretch. Never Surrender, the longest shot in the field of five at 11-1, led early and held second, 3 1/2 lengths in front of Jet West. El Don, the even-money favorite who was making his stakes debut, faded to finish fourth, beating only Don'tsellmeshort, the morning-line favorite, who was never in contention.

The victory by Areyoutalkintome improved the gelding's record to four wins in 11 starts for earnings of $167,892.

O'Neill said Areyoutalkintome could resurface in a second-condition allowance race as a prep to the California Cup.

"We just wanted to keep him at a level higher than what we claimed him," O'Neill said.

Bear Fan turned out for freshening

Bear Fan, the winner of four sprint stakes this year, has been turned out and will not start in the $150,000 Rancho Bernardo Handicap for female sprinters on Aug. 21, trainer Wesley Ward said.

Ward said Bear Fan, 5, was slow to bounce back following a second in the Grade 2 Princess Rooney Stakes at Calder on July 10. Bear Fan will return to training later this month and remains a candidate for the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30, Ward said.

"She didn't run the race I thought she would last time," he said. "I thought I'd give her a freshening. When you go to the Breeders' Cup, you want everything to be rolling."

Bear Fan's wins this year include three Grade 2 handicaps - the Barbara Fritchie at Laurel and the Genuine Risk and Vagrancy at Belmont Park - and the Irish O'Brien Stakes for statebreds at Santa Anita.

Our New Recruit points for Ancient Title

Our New Recruit, the winner of the $2 million Golden Shaheen in Dubai in March, worked a half-mile in 47.60 seconds on Saturday. Trained by John Sadler, Our New Recruit is being pointed for the Breeders' Cup Sprint and is likely to have a prep race in the Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap at Oak Tree on Oct. 10.