Jockey Patrick Valenzuela, launching his latest comeback bid this weekend at Del Mar, will have his first stakes mount Aug. 4 aboard 2-year-old Easy Solution in the $150,000 Best Pal Stakes (gr. II).
Valenzuela had knee surgery earlier this year and has not ridden since November. The 50-year-old rider is named on six horses Aug. 3 at Del Mar. He has been working horses at the seaside track since July 24.
In a field of lightly raced juveniles, Valenzuela has the assignment on Easy Solution. He's an Illinois-bred colt by Margie's Wildcat that won his debut July 1 on the Polytrack at Woodbine in front-running fashion by two lengths. Peter Miller trains Easy Solution, who drew the rail, for Loooch Racing Stable.
Valenzuela retired from racing in November 2011 but returned to the saddle the following May. During his abbreviated campaign, he won nine of 129 races including a pair of grade I events aboard champion Acclamation. His career spans 28,293 mounts, including 4,342 wins, with total purse earnings of $164,857,682, according to Equibase.
Pat V. has won the Best Pal three times previously, most recently in 2010 aboard J P's Gusto. He also won it in 2003 on Perfect Moon and in 1990 with Best Pal, when it was known as the Balboa Stakes.
The Best Pal, contested at 6 1/2 furlongs on Polytrack, is race 8 on Sunday's Del Mar card with a scheduled post time of 5:40 p.m. PDT. the race is a major steppingstone to next month's Del Mar Futurity (gr. I).
Alpine Luck, winner of the listed Hollywood Juvenile Championship July 13 at Betfair Hollywood Park, is the 123-pound highweight. The California homebred son of Lucky J. H. has won his past two starts for trainer Mike Harrington and owner Heinz Steinmann with Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens. Alpine Luck began his career with a pair of third-place finishes.
All four of Alpine Luck's prior races came on the Cushion Track at Hollywood. He won his first stakes try on the front end at odds of 9-2, holding on gamely for a half-length triumph over Best Pal rival Ontology. Stevens is back aboard from post 4.
Reddam Racing's Ontology will try to turn the tables on Alpine luck at a new venue for trainer Simon Callaghan. The Tapit colt has finished second behind Alpine Luck in both of his races so far.
Ontology has been working splendidly at Del Mar. He recorded a bullet three-furlong move in :35 4/5 July 22 followed six days later by a five-furlong jaunt in :59 2/5, second best of 82 on the morning. Rafael Bejarano retains the mount from post 2. Ontology will race with blinkers for the first time.
Besides Alpine Luck, the only other stakes winner in the field is unbeaten Skydreamin. The son of Sky Mesa has won back-to-back stakes tries in Northern California for trainer Jeff Bonde.
Racing for a partnership that included Alan Klein and Phil Lebherz, Skydreamin debuted with a head victory in the Lost in the Fog Stakes June 15 over the Tapeta racing surface at Golden Gate Fields. The bay colt tried dirt next, romping by 5 1/2 lengths at 7-5 in the Everett Nevin Stakes at Pleasanton July 7.
Alberts Hope and Guns Loaded are both returning after first-out maiden victories, and Celtic Moon also comes out of a maiden victory in start number two.
Guns Loaded graduated at Del Mar July 20 for trainer Cody Autrey. Alberts Hope, trained by Mike Puype, and Celtic Moon, from the Miller barn, posted their initial wins at Hollywod.
$150,000 Best Pal Stakes (gr. II, Race 8, 5:40 p.m.), 2YOs, 6 1/2 furlongs (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Easy Solution (IL), P A Valenzuela, 117, P Miller
2. Ontology (KY), R Bejarano, 117, S Callaghan
3. Skydreamin (KY), M E Smith, 121, J Bonde
4. Alpine Luck (CA), G L Stevens, 123, M Harrington
5. Alberts Hope (KY), A Quinonez, 119, M Puype
6. Guns Loaded (FL), J Talamo, 119, C Autrey
7. Celtic Moon (FL), E A Maldonado, 119, P Miller
Blinkers On: Ontology