Updated on 09/17/2011 10:49AM

Valovich, jockey, found dead

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Chris Valovich, a successful journeyman rider at various tracks in the Midwest, was found dead last Friday at the home of an acquaintance in Phoenix. According to published reports, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office said Valovich's death had been ruled a suicide. Valovich was 41.

Valovich last rode in Chicago on Jan. 1, 2002. He reportedly had gone to Phoenix in an attempt to revive his career at Turf Paradise, but he never rode there. Valovich's career here was derailed by a drug positive. One Chicago trainer, who knew Valovich from various Midwest tracks, characterized him as "an odd guy."

Valovich's behavior could be erratic, but few questioned his basic skills as a rider.

Valovich rode regularly in Chicago, Arkansas, and Nebraska. His career took hold in the early 1980's, when he was a hot apprentice rider at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., near where he grew up. On the heels of that success, Valovich rode for a time in Southern California.

Back in the Midwest, he settled in for the long haul, and by the time his career ended, Valovich had ridden more than 2,000 winners. He had especially good runs at Canterbury Park in Minnesota when that track opened in the mid-1980's and at Ak-Sar-Ben in Omaha, Neb. Valovich won riding titles at both tracks.

A memorial service for Valovich is to be held either June 30 or July 1 in Hot Springs.