Valenzuela Close to 2003 Southern Cal Sweep
Updated: Saturday, December 20, 2003 4:32 PM
Posted: Friday, December 19, 2003 6:42 PM
(from Hollywood Park notes)
Jockey Patrick Valenzuela enters the closing weekend of the Hollywood Park Autumn Meet with added motivation. A riding crown at the 30-day session that concludes Sunday would give Valenzuela a rare sweep of the five major meets on the Southern California circuit in the same year.
"It would mean a lot to win a title at any track and be a result of Nick (agent Nick Cosato) and I combining to do what we do best," said Valenzuela Friday as he headed into the final three days with a shaky lead in the race.
Valenzuela entered the Friday program with 24 winners, one ahead of Julie Krone, two in front of Victor Espinoza and three clear of Martin Pedroza and Tyler Baze. Krone is out recovering from injuries suffered in a spill here on Dec. 12, but the other leading contenders will all be in action on the final weekend.
Valenzuela, 41, returned to the saddle Wednesday after missing a week because of the flu. He thought this title and a sweep of the big five would symbolize the consistency and perseverance of a record year.
"I've had a pretty good year – the best of my career," said Valenzuela, who has hit a personal high of more than $15.4 million in purse earnings, fourth in the nation. "We've been there week-in, week-out and had great trainers and owners supporting us."
Valenzuela said the highlight of the year had to be winning the $2-million Breeders' Cup Distaff with Adoration, a 40-to-1 longshot. "I haven't had the one or two top horses, like a Medaglia d'Oro, to really jump me up there in earnings," said Valenzuela. "I've had to do it day-in and day-out."
That nose-to-the-grindstone attitude has helped Valenzuela win the Santa Anita Winter/Spring, Hollywood Park Spring/Summer, Del Mar and Oak Tree meets this year. The only other rider to sweep the five circuit stops was Chris McCarron in 1983, when he won 55 races at Hollywood autumn meet, including the Hollywood Turf Cup with John Henry.
Valenzuela credits his big year to Valerie, his wife of 13 months. "She's been a big influence on my career," said Valenzuela. "She is the stable rock that keeps me around. I come out here every day to try and make a good living for my family"
"I want to put my five daughters through college and earn a nice retirement for my wife and myself.
"My oldest daughter, Michelle, is 20 and a student at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles."
Valenzuela has similar college aspirations for his four other daughters: Kristine, 17; Elizabeth, 15; Kelly, 11, and Brianna, 9.
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