Valenzuela Suspended Pending CHRB Probe
The 41-year-old jockey was issued the conditional license in December 2001 and has won several major Southern California racing meet titles since. He is an Eclipse Award finalist for leading rider in 2003.
Valenzuela, who has a lengthy history of substance abuse suspensions, took off his mounts on Thursday citing a sprained ankle, but failed to show up later that afternoon for a requested drug test. According to steward Ingrid Fermin, numerous attempts to contact Valenzuela have been unsuccessful and he did not appear before the stewards on Friday. Additionally, numerous phone messages left for him by CHRB investigators went unanswered.
"He called in yesterday right about at the first race and said he's sprained his ankle," Fermin said. "He asked if we wanted him to come in and test, which we did, and he said he'd be in. He never showed up. Corey Black (Valenzuela's new agent) contacted us this morning and asked if we'd heard from him because he hadn't heard from him either.
"The window of opportunity to test (in order for him to resume riding immediately) closed yesterday at 4:30. He's not under our jurisdiction anymore."
A statement issued late Friday by the CHRB said that Valenzuela violated the conditions of a signed contract, which subjected him to several strict conditions in order to retain his license. One of those is to be available for drug and/or alcohol testing as directed by the stewards.
"The contract stems from a previous suspension of Valenzuela that was issued Feb. 11, 2000, for, 'engaging in the use of a dangerous drug – amphetamine,' " the statement read.The CHRB issued a one-year license to Valenzuela on Dec. 14, 2001, subject to 12 conditions specified in the contract, including requirements that he report to the CHRB office each race-day morning. Testing was to be conducted at least eight times each month. He renewed the contract most recently on Dec. 31, 2003, for a conditional license that expires Dec. 31, 2004.
Valenzuela will remain suspended until he appears before a hearing conducted by the stewards, according to the CHRB statement.
The suspension capped off a difficult week for the jockey. He fired agent Nick Cosato Monday, hiring former jockey Corey Black to handle his engagements three days later. Valenzuela missed the first 13 days of the Santa Anita meet due to several previous suspensions for riding in fractions and returned to the saddle on Jan. 11, winning with 10 of 49 mounts through Monday's holiday program.
In 2003, Valenzuela won riding titles at the Santa Anita winter/spring meet, the Hollywood Park spring/summer meet, Del Mar, Oak Tree and the Hollywood autumn meet. He is the first rider since Chris McCarron in 1983 to sweep the five major meet titles on the Southen California circuit.
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