10/09/2008 12:00AM

Valenzuela wins 4,000th race


Jockey Patrick Valenzuela picked up the 4,000th win of his career Thursday at Louisiana Downs, when he guided Burst of Light from last to first in the second race. She won the optional claimer by two lengths and paid $9.

"I got that monkey off my back," he said. "I'm very blessed."

Valenzuela, 45, rode his first career winner on Nov. 10, 1978, at Sunland Park in New Mexico. He shot to fame soon afterward, when he moved his tack to Southern California and as a 17-year-old won the Santa Anita Derby. Through the years, Valenzuela has ridden such horses as Sunday Silence, with whom he won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 1989, and Arazi, one of seven Breeders' Cup winners he has been aboard. He also swept all five riding titles in Southern California in 2003.

Valenzuela, who has a history of substance-abuse problems, has been based at Louisiana Downs since May. He had a conditional license in California revoked in December following a drunken-driving charge, and last month the California Horse Racing Board ruled he would not be able to reapply for a license. Valenzuela said Thursday he plans to appeal in court. Following the close of the Louisiana Downs meet on Oct. 18, he said he will be based at Fair Grounds.

Valenzuela has ridden 25,896 races, and his mounts have earned more than $150 million.