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The Day in Sports | HORSE RACING

Valenzuela, Berrio Tussle at Del Mar

September 09, 2003|Bill Christine | Times Staff Writer

DEL MAR — Pat Valenzuela, the leading jockey at Del Mar this season, and another rider, Omar Berrio, got into a scuffle in the jockeys' room Monday after a horse ridden by Valenzuela was disqualified for interference in the third race.

An eyewitness, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the verbal and physical confrontation lasted about 10 minutes and security guards were called to restore order.

Valenzuela and Berrio rode the rest of their mounts, Valenzuela winning two races to lengthen his lead over Julie Krone to 50-47 in their battle for the meet riding title. Del Mar's 43-day season ends Wednesday, when Valenzuela and Krone will ride nine horses apiece on the 10-race card.

"I was in the corner [of the jockeys' room], minding my own business, when things started happening," Valenzuela said. "[Berrio] started it. It was a stupid little thing that happened."

Valenzuela declined to comment further. Berrio's agent, Rene San Miguel, did not respond to telephone messages.

The stewards ruled that Valenzuela, riding Grinding It Out in the third race, cut in front of Berrio's mount, Westward Star, and caused Berrio to take up with his horse. Grinding It Out won but was disqualified to last place. Westward Star was moved up to seventh place in the eight-horse field.

Valenzuela, who was circling the field with Grinding It Out, appeared disturbed by the decision, but later, when discussing the incident, he declined to criticize the stewards.

Martin Pedroza, who had been scheduled to ride Westward Star, took off his mounts after a freakish near-accident with his new car a few hours before the first race.

Riding with family members, Pedroza was forced to pull off the road when the hood of the car flew up, blocking his view.

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