Jockey Patrick Valenzuela earned his 100th career stakes victory at Hollywood… (Benoit Photo / Associated…)
There have been plenty of ups and downs in the racing career of jockey Patrick Valenzuela, but at 48, he's looking revitalized and reenergized.
On Saturday, he earned his 100th career stakes victory at Hollywood Park by guiding Courageous Cat to victory by a neck over Caracortado in the $300,000 Grade I Shoemaker Mile.
Valenzuela won the Santa Anita Derby when he was 17 in 1980. He won the Kentucky Derby aboard Sunday Silence in 1989. He has fought back from substance abuse problems to return to Southern California to ride full time.
"He's a great professional," owner Marty Wygod said. "We try to give him every chance he deserves, and he does a great job. You figure coming back at his age, with his spirit and drive, it's a good thing to see him getting the job done."
Said Valenzuela: "It was a nice way to get the 100th stakes win because Bill Shoemaker, he was my idol."
Courageous Cat, a 5-year-old son of Storm Cat, finished second to Goldikova in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita. By winning, Courageous Cat earned a guaranteed spot to this year's BC Mile at Churchill Downs.
"I'm looking forward for revenge," Wygod said of a possible rematch with Goldikova.
Added Valenzuela: "I don't think he'll get beat at a mile."
Caracortado turned in another strong performance but could never get past Courageous Cat during a stretch duel.
"He ran his butt off," trainer Mike Machowsky said.
Smiling Tiger turned in an overpowering performance under jockey Joel Rosario to win the $250,000 Grade I Triple Bend Handicap by 3 1/4 lengths over Camp Victory, with Amazombie finishing third in the seven-furlong race.
"This horse has the ability to go quick and still rally," trainer Jeff Bonde said. "He's very athletic and has the heart of a warrior."
Smiling Tiger took the lead soon after the start and was never threatened..
"He had an easy time of it today," Bonde said.
There were two winning tickets of the Pick Six on Saturday that returned $207,087.40. … Eswan Flores, the jockey from Fernando Ledesma High, finished second in the eighth race Friday night aboard Aeromon.