The 33-year-old Valdivia is a native of Lima, Peru, coming to the United States with his family at the age of 14. He won his first race aboard Thor Thors when he was 19, on July 17, 1994, in only his third ride at Belmont Park. He moved his tack to Southern California in 1995, where he continued his apprenticeship. After a brief period in Northern California and Kentucky, Valdivia settled in Southern California on a year-round basis in 1997.
His milestone win came aboard a son of Maria's Mon who was making his second start for trainer Ron Ellis and Jay Em Ess Stable in a $51,000 maiden special weight event at 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track. Hiatus came from off the pace to defeat the pacesetting Scibelli by one length.
"I've got what, about 9,000 and change to catch Laffit (Pincay)?” Valdivia quipped. “It's a milestone. I'm very proud to have done it at a major race track. Since I started riding, I've had the pleasure and honor to share the starting gate with some great riders. To do it in Southern California and not only that, to end up doing it for Ron Ellis and the Siegels means a lot. They've stuck with me ever since I had the bug here in Southern California."
Valdivia then won the next race aboard Get Funky, who captured the $75,000 Robert B. Kerlan Memorial Handicap with a finishing surge. Valdivia also won the 2006 Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) on the John Sadler trainee.
Get Funky, a 5-year-old Florida-bred, paid $6.60 while winning for the sixth time in 15 starts. He was making his second start of 2008 following a fourth-place finish in the Inglewood Handicap (gr. IIIT) on May 3 and gave Sadler his fifth stakes win in eight days.
"He's a very nice horse,” Valdivia said. “He could have a bit of distance limitations, but he's top class, a great sprinter. But as you can see, he did win the Del Mar Derby going a mile and one-eighth. He's just a horse that John knows very well and knows where to run him.”
Valdivia, the nephew of retired Southern California rider Fernando Toro, captured the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) in 2001 aboard Val Royal. He was also the regular rider of top sprinter Big Jag, winning eight stakes with him in 1998-99.
His first grade I win was aboard Tali'sluckybusride in the 2001 Oak Leaf. Other grade I wins came with Meteor Storm (2003 Manhattan Handicap), Heat Haze (2003 Beverly D), Aldebaran (2003 San Carlos), Castledale (2004 Santa Anita Derby) and Arravale (2006 Del Mar Oaks and 2007 E.P. Taylor).
Valdivia lives in Monrovia, Calif., with his wife Renee and daughter Siena, who was born in 2006.
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