Patrick Valenzuela, a five-time champion at Del Mar but riding at the seashore for the first time in three years, will ride 2-1 morning line favorite J P's Gusto in the $150,000 Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) Aug. 8.
He picked up the mount from trainer David Hofmans as a result of the Del Mar season-ending injury to Joe Talamo, who rode the colt in his most recent two races, both stakes victories at Hollywood Park. The Best Pal is for 2-year-olds at 6 1/2 furlongs on Polytrack.
Valenzuela's ride in the 40th running of a race that honors incoming Racing Hall of Fame runner Best Pal has special significance for the 47-year-old jockey. He won the race on Best Pal in 1990 for trainer Ian Jory when it was called the Balboa Stakes. It was the first of two Valenzuela victories in the race, the most recent coming in 2003, after the rtace has been renamed, aboard Perfect Moon for trainer Mel Stute.
Speaking about his time on Best Pal on the morning of Aug. 7, Valenzuela recalled, "Best Pal was a very nice horse, very agile. He was rambunctious and mean so it was necessary to geld him. He was never mean to me. In fact, he was very good to me and my career. Maybe J P's Gusto will be my next Best Pal."
The gelded son of Habitony, bred by Mr. and Mrs. John C. Mabee and owned by their Golden Eagle Farm, carried Valenzuela to victory in seven stakes from March 1990 to August 1991, capped by Best Pal's victory in Del Mar's inaugural Pacific Classic (gr. I). Best Pal and Valenzuela also teamed to win the Del Mar Futurity (gr. II), Norfolk Stakes (gr. I), Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) and the Swaps Stakes (gr. II).
Battling J P's Gusto will be Western Mood, who fell a neck short to J P's Gusto in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship (gr. III).