A grateful Patrick Valenzuela basked in a warm welcome back to California racing as he resumed his riding career in the Golden State July 28.
Valenzuela, who received a conditional license after getting approval from the California Horse Racing Board July 22, was blanked in three races in his first day back in the state. Valenzuela finished second in the first race on Alaska Miss, fifth in the fifth race with Dr. Tong, and third aboard Warrensmysterydice in the sixth race.
He expressed his gratitude to the CHRB. "I thank the CHRB for its leniency in my case," the 47-year-old Valenzuela said. "It feels so good to be back in California, and with my family here. I will do everything I can to help California racing."
Valenzuela has won 4,144 Thoroughbred races in a career marked by numerous suspensions and reinstatements for substance and alcohol abuse. He was suspended most recently by the CHRB following a drunk driving arrest in late December 2007. He has competed mostly in Louisiana since that ban.
Three of his four daughters live in Southern California, as does his mother.
"I was overwhelmed by the reception I got here when I went out to ride my first race. People around the paddock were shouting encouragement, and I saw a lot of faces of old friends and saw a lot of new faces."
Valenuela has three mounts on both July 29 and 30 and is booked on seven of the 10 races July 31, including a ride on Enriched in the $200,000 San Diego Handicap (gr. II).
Of his goals for the Del Mar meeting, he said, "I want to have fun, win a lot of races and stay clean and sober. I'm taking one day at a time. I may not be the leading rider again, but I'll try hard every day. I feel like I have 10 good years left to ride and I plan to make them the best years of my career."