09/21/2006 11:00PM

Wait a While will prepare for Breeders' Cup in Yellow Ribbon


Wait a While, the emphatic winner of the Grade 1 American Oaks at Hollywood Park in July, will return to California for Saturday's Grade 1, $400,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting, trainer Todd Pletcher said.

Pletcher said he plans to start Wait a While in the Yellow Ribbon because the race will be run on a firm turf course over 1 1/4 miles and is five weeks before the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4. Pletcher noted that the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup for 3-year-old fillies at Keeneland on Oct. 14 is only three weeks from the Breeders' Cup.

"We felt this was the best way to get there," said Pletcher. "The firm course is a big factor, and I like the spacing."

Garrett Gomez has been booked to ride.

Wait a While has won 6 of 11 starts and $978,087. She has made one start since the American Oaks, winning the Grade 2 Lake Placid Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 18.

"She's in good form," Pletcher said.

The return of Wait a While in California is the start of a larger presence in the state for Pletcher, the nation's leading trainer. He said he plans to bring "20 to 40" horses to Hollywood Park for the fall meeting, which begins Nov. 1.

The Yellow Ribbon is expected to have a large field. The probable starters include Bond Deal, Candy Factory, Dancing Edie, Life Live, Singalong, Three Degrees, and possibly Moscow Burning.

The Yellow Ribbon is one of three Breeders' Cup prep races scheduled for the first Saturday of the Oak Tree meeting, which begins Wednesday.

Point Ashley, the winner of the Del Mar Debutante on Sept. 4, will be heavily favored in a small field in the $250,000 Oak Leaf Stakes for 2-year-old fillies over 1 1/16 miles.

In the $250,000 Clement Hirsch Turf Championship over 1 1/4 miles on turf, The Tin Man will make his first start since winning the Arlington Million in August. T.H. Approval, the winner of the last two runnings of the San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap over about 1 3/4 miles on turf here, is his principal opponent.

Valenzuela status up in the air

Jockey Patrick Valenzuela worked horses at Santa Anita on Friday morning, but it is unclear whether he will be allowed to ride Wednesday, because he has not supplied the California Horse Racing Board with documentation explaining a two-month absence earlier this year.

Valenzuela, who has a history of substance abuse problems, has not ridden in Southern California since the conclusion of the Hollywood Park meeting on July 16. He took off his rides at Del Mar on July 19, citing a back injury. In early August, Valenzuela was admitted to a Pasadena hospital to undergo physical therapy but never had surgery on his back and spent more than a month there.

Valenzuela, 43, has passed several drug tests in recent months - urine tests conducted in July and a more specific hair-follicle test conducted earlier this month. CHRB officials are awaiting documentation from Valenzuela regarding the reason for his hospitalization before allowing him to be booked on mounts.

"He hasn't supplied the information that has been requested and is not approved to ride," said board spokesman Mike Marten.

Valenzuela and his agent, Tom Knust, said they expect he will be in action Wednesday. Entries for Wednesday's program will be taken on Sunday.

Friday, Knust said that Valenzuela's attorney, Neil Papiano "is working with the board to resolve any issues right now. We have a license and it hasn't been taken away from us."

Friday, Valenzuela declined to answer questions about his status or recent absence. When asked if he had a message for horsemen explaining his recent absence, he said, "I don't have any messages for anyone."

Valenzuela won the Woodbine Mile aboard Becrux last Sunday in Canada, the only day he has ridden since the end of Hollywood Park. Valenzuela was allowed to ride in Canada, because no rulings have been issued against him in California, CHRB officials said earlier this week.

Lava Man works for Goodwood

Lava Man, the leading older horse in California, breezed a half-mile in 50.60 seconds on the synthetic surface at Hollywood Park on Friday, preparing for a start in the $500,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap on Oct. 7.

Trainer Doug O'Neill timed the work in 50.40 seconds.

"You want to run to the paymaster and see if they'll give you a check for what happened," O'Neill said, praising the workout.

Unbeaten in six starts this year, four of which are Grade 1 stakes, Lava Man is being pointed for the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November.

At Santa Anita, Horse Greeley, the winner of the Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 6, worked five furlongs in 59.60 seconds. Trained by Richard Mandella, Horse Greeley is scheduled to start in the Norfolk Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on Oct. 8.