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Valenzuela will miss rest of meet
INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Pat Valenzuela is out for the rest of the Hollywood Park spring-summer meet. The leading jockey in Southern California, Valenzuela suffered a concussion and injured his right knee Sunday in a starting gate accident.
According to Valenzuela's agent, Ron Ebanks, the rider was still in the intensive care unit Tuesday at Centinela Hospital. Ebanks said Valenzuela was conscious and is expected to recover from the concussion that resulted when he struck the right side of his head after he fell off Mango Escapade at the start of the eighth race Sunday.
Valenzuela also tore a ligament in his knee, which will require surgery and several weeks to recover. "It could be four to eight weeks," Ebanks said. "It could have been worse."
Valenzuela initially went numb on his right side following the one-horse spill, but is not believed to have suffered damage to his spine.
It was the second spill at the meet for Valenzuela, who missed one week after spraining his knee in an accident April 22. Valenzuela, 42, was the leading rider during the Santa Anita winter meet. Ebanks said Valenzuela and he will look toward summer.
"He'll take the right amount of time, get 100 percent healthy, and Del Mar will be our main goal," said Ebanks.
Churchill 'exploring options' for Hollywood
In its annual report delivered to investors this week, Hollywood Park's owner Churchill Downs, Inc., has made it clear that Hollywood Park is on the sales block. Citing business conditions, Churchill Downs wrote in its report that Native American casinos and the lack of gaming expansion to state tracks and card clubs have made it difficult for Hollywood to compete. The report states: "This unfair competitive landscape, along with higher operating expenses and protectionist simulcast practices, makes racing in California increasingly difficult and one reason we are exploring options to maximize the Hollywood Park property."
A local newspaper, the Daily Breeze, reported this week that at least five developers are believed to have either submitted bids or are preparing bids for the Hollywood property. According to the report, Churchill Downs will try to sell Hollywood by the third quarter of this year. Hollywood Park was purchased by Churchill Downs for $140 million in 1999; its current value is estimated to be between $190 million and $250 million.
Citing corporate policy, Churchill Downs Inc. has not said whether Hollywood Park is for sale.
Giacomo's sister eyes a comeback
Long before anyone knew of Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo, the colt's full sister Styler was winning races for trainer John Shirreffs and her owner-breeders, Jerry and Ann Moss. But that was a long time ago - Styler has not raced in more than two years. "We could have retired her," Shirreffs said Tuesday. "She's always been one of my favorite horses. She's like Giacomo, kind of introverted."
A 6-year-old mare by Holy Bull out of Set Them Free, Styler is now gearing up for an improbable comeback. She is breezing regularly at Hollywood Park, where Shirreffs said he hopes she will return during the spring meet "with a little bit of luck." She'll need it.
Styler has not raced since winning a first-level allowance May 9, 2003, at Hollywood. Since then, it has been one setback after another. "First she had ankles, then we had to do tie-back surgery [on her throat], then a splint," Shirreffs said. "But she's just a fun horse."
Styler has been breezing five furlongs once a week since mid-April. A winner 2 of 4 starts, she is eligible to start in a nonwinners-of-two allowance. Another full sister to Giacomo, the 5-year-old Sea Jewel, was retired, and Shirreffs said a 2-year-old half-brother to Giacomo by Giant's Causeway is in Florida.
Similar to Giacomo, who was named after the son of rock star Sting, Styler was named after Sting's wife, Trudy Styler. As for his business with Giacomo, Shirreffs was scheduled to return to Kentucky late Tuesday and said Giacomo would go back to the track on Wednesday for the first time since winning the Derby. "Obviously, he doesn't need to do much between now and the Preakness," Shirreffs said.
Memorette could switch to turf
While the California-based colts fared well in the Kentucky Derby by finishing 1-4-5-6, that was not the case for the lone California filly in the Kentucky Oaks. Memorette returned to owner-trainer Bill Currin's barn at Hollywood on Monday evening, three days after she broke slowly and finished fifth in the Oaks. She may switch surfaces to turf.
"She came out of the race good," Currin said. "I'll let her rest up - that's a tiring trip - and then practice with her on grass. She has such a powerful kick. Kent [Desormeaux] thinks she'll like it."
Even while Memorette takes a break, Currin said he will have a busy weekend. Bashert, a 2-year-old colt by Tiger Ridge, runs in a maiden sprint; graded-stakes-placed Outta Here is nominated to the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap on Saturday. A 5-year-old, Outta Here's long range goal is the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 9.
American Liberty likes it here
It is possible that American Liberty cannot go a distance, but few others in the 1 1/16-mile Mervyn LeRoy on Saturday have displayed a greater affinity for Hollywood Park.
"He likes this racetrack when he's good," said trainer Neil Drysdale. "He's good now, so we should take advantage. We can always come back to [a sprint]."
No reason to yet. In his last start April 22, American Liberty won a second-level sprint allowance, his third win from four starts at Hollywood. American Liberty is by Storm Cat out of Love From Mom, who produced graded stakes sprinters Sea of Secrets and Love That Jazz. American Liberty's front-running style is often more conducive to sprints, but she won two Hollywood routes last summer, including a first-level allowance that earned a 100 Beyer Figure.
* Drysdale said Sarafan will be his only starter Saturday in the Grade 3 Jim Murray Handicap. An 8-year-old gelding, Sarafan was assigned high weight of 120 pounds for the 1 1/2-mile turf race. Sarafan has won 10 races and more than $2.6 million from 45 starts. He finished second in a March 27 comeback in a classified allowance.
* Splendid Blended, the Drysdale-trained winner of the Hollywood Starlet, is aiming for the Grade 1 Acorn on June 4 at Belmont.