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Board Denies License for Valenzuela

April 03, 2001|BILL CHRISTINE

The riding career of Pat Valenzuela, whose many big-race victories have been dwarfed by years of run-ins with racing authorities because of drug abuse and riding absences, took a dead-end turn Monday when the California Horse Racing Board denied him a license.

Valenzuela, who won the Kentucky Derby in 1989 with Sunday Silence, rode six Breeders' Cup winners and totaled 3,030 winners, was hoping to return to the saddle after a year's suspension that resulted from his testing positive for amphetamines at Santa Anita in February 2000.

Racing board investigators denied Valenzuela's application to be relicensed in February, after which the three Santa Anita stewards--Ingrid Fermin, Pete Pedersen and Tom Ward--gave the troubled jockey a hearing and recommended to the board that he not be allowed back. The stewards said that Valenzuela hadn't sufficiently shown that he was drug-free during the year he was away.

The seven-member board concurred with the stewards' recommendation during an executive session that followed their meeting in Arcadia last Friday. The board's decision was announced Monday.

In their recommendation to the board, the stewards said: "The board of stewards, who must be ever vigilant about the safety of the entire jockey colony, is of the unanimous position that [Valenzuela] has not submitted evidence to substantiate that he has sustained one year of uninterrupted sobriety."

Valenzuela, 38, has tested positive at least four times for drugs. In 1989, several months after winning the Kentucky Derby, he lost the mount on Sunday Silence for the Breeders' Cup Classic when he tested positive for cocaine. Chris McCarron rode Sunday Silence to victory in the Classic.

The racing board said Monday that Valenzuela could reapply for a license in six months.

"This is OK, we'll just try to go forward," Valenzuela said Monday night. "It's just another six months, that's all. It's another speed bump in the road that we'll have to go over. I'm going to build off what I have. I'm going to keep building on the foundation of sobriety that I've established."

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