Jockey Patrick Valenzuela in happier times after winning the 2003 Breeders' Cup Distaff on Adoration. He also won riding titles at all five major race meetings in Southern California last year.
The riding career of jockey Patrick Valenzuela appears to be over, following years of substance abuse problems and repeated suspensions and reinstatements. Stewards Tom Ward, George Slender, and Ingrid Fermin at Del Mar suspended his license through the end of the year and recommended that the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) not renew it, following six hours of testimony by a total of seven witnesses.
What led to the suspension was a violation of one of the conditions of his license, that he submit to drug testing at any time. When asked to submit to a hair follicle test, the stewards said, "rather than make every effort to comply with the hair follicle testing process, (Valenzuela) found another way to evade testing, and thereby violated (the license agreement)." Specifically, he shaved his entire body, claiming "I was never advised what length of hair to grow. I didn't do a thing wrong. I got suspended for people assuming that I did something wrong." The stewards stated, "The issue of safety on the racetrack includes jockeys, exercise riders, pony riders, outriders, and, of course, the horses. These obligations cannot be compromised. (Valenzuela) has been a talented jockey for many years, but it is evident that he has failed to learn that he must be held accountable for the consequences of his behavior."
In a weak defense, Valenzuela claimed he was unfamiliar with the amendments to his license conditions, however Deputy Attorney General James Ahern, representing the CHRB, verified that a certified copy of the amendments were sent to him.
Following the hearing, Valenzuela and his lawyer Neil Papiano vowed to fight the suspension, calling the ruling a "death penalty". Papiano feels he can win on appeal, because Valenzuela has not tested positive since 2000. Valenzuela does have several legal options to delay the suspension until an appeal is heard, but as was seen in the past, the board appears less than willing to give in to such tactics easily. In 2004, Valenzuela rode for just three weeks in January and five weeks in April and May. In defiance of the ruling, Valenzuela said, "The $2 bettor will be glad that I'll be back. Whether it's tomorrow or the next day, the $2 bettors will be happy. And I'll be happy. The owners who want a good rider that gives 110 percent will be happy."
The official ruling:
In the matter of the appeal by Patrick Valenzuela:
A formal appeal hearing having been held before the Board of Stewards at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club to determine Appellant's compliance with the terms of the Order issued by the California Horse Racing Board on May 26, 2004; it is the decision of the Board of Stewards that Patrick Valenzuela is in violation of said Order.
Therefore, Patrick Valenzuela (Appellant) remains suspended through the term of his current license (December 31, 2004). It is further recommended by this Board of Stewards that Patrick Valenzuela (Appellant) not be considered for future licensing by the California Horse Racing Board in any capacity.
Pursuant to California Horse Racing Board Rule # 1528 (Jurisdiction of Stewards) Patrick Valenzuela (Appellant) is denied access to all premises in this jurisdiction.
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