10/30/2003 12:00AM

Valenzuela's suspensions reduced six days


ARCADIA, Calif. - Patrick Valenzuela, the leading rider in California this year, had his suspensions for riding infractions reduced by six days after successfully appealing the cases to the California Horse Racing Board.

The CHRB, meeting in an executive session last week, set aside a three-day suspension given to Valenzuela on May 31 and reduced a five-day suspension from June 19 to two days.

Even with the reduction, Valenzuela's suspensions may last up to 20 days, but five of the days are on appeal.

Valenzuela appealed four suspensions to the CHRB. Two administrative law judges heard testimony on the cases and made recommendations to the CHRB.

Valenzuela had two appeals rejected by the CHRB, on the recommendation of administrative law judge James Ahler. Valenzuela's riding infractions occurred at Del Mar on July 24 and Aug. 17, and cover eight days of racing.

Administrative law judge Samuel Reyes heard arguments on the suspensions from May 31 and June 19, both of which occurred at Hollywood Park. His recommendations to set aside one suspension and reduce the other were enacted by the CHRB.

Most recently, Valenzuela was given a five-day suspension for an incident last Friday at Santa Anita. Aboard Hagerstown in the ninth race, Valenzuela was cited for causing interference in the stretch. Hagerstown was disqualified from second and placed seventh in a sprint for $16,000 claimers.

The suspension covers racing from Wednesday through Sunday of next week, but does not prohibit Valenzuela from riding the California Cup program on Nov. 8. The California Cup and graded stakes are exempt from routine suspension. If Valenzuela rides the California Cup, he will be assigned an additional day of suspension in the future, according to steward Pete Pedersen.

Valenzuela has appealed a five-day suspension for a riding infraction at Del Mar on Sept. 8. The case has not yet been heard.

Valenzuela, 40, has won riding titles at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, and Del Mar this year, but his aggressive riding style has made him the subject of inquiries by stewards and fellow riders.

At the Oak Tree meeting, Valenzuela leads the standings with 30 wins, six more than Tyler Baze.

Class Above given a break

Class Above, the 16-length winner of the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies in September, is being given a break following a seventh-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last Saturday.

Trainer Bob Baffert said Class Above emerged from the race with mucus in her throat.

"I think that's why she ran a flat race," said Baffert.

Class Above was the third choice in the betting but was never closer than fifth. She finished 16 lengths behind Halfbridled.

Victory U. S. A., third in the Juvenile Fillies for Baffert, remains on schedule for the Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 21.

Baffert has won the Starlet twice, with Excellent Meeting (1998) and Habibti (2001). He was second last year with Composure.

Dimitrova has new trainer

Dimitrova, a winner of two major stakes this year but the last-place finisher in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, has been moved to trainer Neil Drysdale's stable.

Dimitrova was previously trained by Dermot Weld, who guided her to wins in the American Oaks at Hollywood Park in July and the Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park in September.

Drysdale said that Dimitrova "will have a vacation" and will be pointed for the major turf stakes for females at the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting - the Santa Ana and Santa Barbara handicaps.

Drysdale said that Sarafan, withdrawn from the Breeders' Cup Mile because of illness, is on schedule for a start in the Japan Cup on Nov. 30. Sarafan, second to the European star Falbrav in the 2002 Japan Cup, worked six furlongs on turf at Santa Anita on Wednesday.

Gill and Canani claim some more

Owner Michael Gill and trainer Nick Canani continued to claim horses at Santa Anita on Wednesday, buying two horses for a total of $70,000 - Dalia Dolly and Saint Lorenzo.

Dalia Dolly finished second in the first race, a sprint for $20,000 claimers. Saint Lorenzo finished last of five in a turf sprint for $50,000 claimers.

Gill, who leads the nation's owners in wins, has been busy claiming horses in the last week at Santa Anita. He claimed eight horses on Oct. 24 and 26.

Canani said Thursday that he was still awaiting word from racing officials in California on whether Gill would be granted stalls to open a stable at Hollywood Park. Track officials were not available for comment.

Sky Jack gears up for California Cup

Sky Jack, winner of the Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs on Aug. 24, will be prepared mainly off gallops for the $250,000 California Cup Classic, trainer Doug O'Neill said.

Sky Jack, 7, worked three furlongs in 38.80 seconds at Hollywood Park on Thursday, and O'Neill said the workout was designed to satisfy the rule that horses have two recorded workouts within 60 days.

Sky Jack worked five furlongs in 1:00 at Hollywood Park on Oct. 13, but O'Neill says that clockers missed a five-furlong workout on Oct. 24.

"It was foggy," O'Neill said. "My rider got him in 1:01 and change."

O'Neill was not concerned about the slow time of Thursday's workout and said he cannot work Sky Jack vigorously between races. A winner of 10 of 18 starts and $1,115,127, Sky Jack has had three knee surgeries in his career.

"It's the way I've done it with him for a long time," O'Neill said.

The winner of the 2002 California Cup Classic and 2002 Hollywood Gold Cup, Sky Jack has made three starts this year, winning twice. He finished sixth in an allowance race on turf at Hollywood Park on June 13 but returned to win an allowance race on dirt on July 5.

The Classic is the top race on the 10-race California Cup program. Run over 1 1/8 miles, the Classic is also expected to include Continental Red, Grey Memo, Hot Market, Kedington, Mr. Joe C, and Tizbud.