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A Real Hollywood Ending

June 01, 2003|Bill Christine

ELMONT, N.Y. — Even dedicated racing trivia players might not remember that Jose Santos rode Best Pal when he won the $1-million Hollywood Futurity in 1990. Best Pal, earning $5.6 million, was a gelding (like Funny Cide) who ran 47 times in a career that ended in 1996, but Santos never rode him again after the Hollywood Park race.

Santos had come to California late in 1990 to test the waters. The mount on Best Pal opened when Pat Valenzuela, who had ridden the horse in six of his first seven starts, was disciplined by the stewards and ordered to get medical and psychiatric help for his drug problems.

While Valenzuela tried to get a court order that would allow him to ride Best Pal in the Futurity, trainer Ian Jory scheduled a workout a few days before the race, saying that the workout rider would ride Best Pal in the race. Kent Desormeaux, aboard for the exercise, already had a mount, though.

Desormeaux also sensed that Valenzuela's lawyer might get the suspension overturned, leaving Valenzuela available to ride.

Valenzuela remained on the sidelines, however. Desormeaux finished fifth on Deputy Meister at 33-1, and Santos rode Best Pal to a one-length win over entry mate General Meeting. That was one of 19 races Santos has won in stakes worth $1 million or more.

-- Bill Christine

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