Jockey Pat Valenzuela, who last rode competitively 22 months ago in California, has been named to ride two entries at Louisiana’s Delta Downs Nov. 19.
Valenzuela, 53, was suspended Feb. 7, 2014 for failing to appear before the California Horse Racing Board over charges that he did not show up for a pair of scheduled mounts at Santa Anita two weeks earlier.
He gave no official explanation, only sending a text message to then-agent Tom Knust saying, “I’m sorry, Tom. I’m not riding any longer. I’m sorry.”
Valenzuela, who has had a history of substance abuse problems and numerous suspensions during his career, was riding at the time on a conditional license that allowed the CHRB to test him for drugs and alcohol at its request.
The CHRB’s latest suspension technically ended Oct. 31, but it’s not clear whether Valenzuela has applied for a new jockey’s license in California. In August, the CHRB granted him a license to exercise horses.
Trainer Karl Broberg confirmed that Valenzuela has recently been issued a license to race in Louisiana and that he has given Valenzuela two riding assignments at Delta Downs Nov. 19. Both Louisiana-breds are on the also-eligible list in their respective races — Mypalcharliebrown in a non-winners of four, $5,000 claiming race and Stormy Allyssa in a $10,000 maiden claimer for fillies and mares.
“My two main riders are leaving for the Fair Grounds, and this comes up at a perfect time,” Broberg said of giving Valenzuela the opportunities.
This isn’t the first time Broberg, the leading North American trainer by wins this year (362), has supported an older jockey on the comeback trail. Over the weekend, he gave a leg up to Steve J. Bourque, who started racing in 1979 but was last seen with a mount in 2010. Bourque won his comeback race Saturday — a $5,000 claimer at Remington Park.
Valenzuela began riding in 1978 and until his latest suspension, had produced 4,346 victories from 28,398 starts, with earnings topping $165 million. His wins included the Kentucky Derby and Preakness aboard Sunday Silence in 1989 and seven Breeders’ Cup victories.
Known for his strong personality, Valenzuela has been talking up his return for months, calling it his “Eye of the Tiger” comeback in September. A year ago, Valenzuela even sent around a promotional “rap” video about himself. Watch it here.