"It's a difficult decision. He has a strong base with racing fans, but on the other hand he was in violation of a contract that we thought he couldn't violate."
Jockey Patrick Valenzuela, his future as a rider in the balance Thursday, had failed to contact Santa Anita Park stewards as of 12:30 p.m. to learn of his fate.The 41-year-old jockey was expected to contact the stewards office by telephone at 9:30 a.m. When he didn't, stewards tried to reach him."We left several messages and haven't heard back," steward Tom Ward said. "He has to know (his fate) before we can tell anyone else." "We don't want him to read about it in the newspaper," Pete Pedersen added.On Jan. 23, stewards suspended Valenzuela's conditional jockey license indefinitely and referred the case to the California Horse Racing Board for further investigation. The conditional license was issued in December 2001. Valenzuela has won several major Southern California racing meet titles since. He was an Eclipse Award finalist for leading rider in 2003.Valenzuela took off his mounts on Jan. 22, saying he had a sprained ankle, but failed to show up later that afternoon for a requested drug test. He met informally with stewards nearly three weeks later in a closed-door meeting and reportedly explained he had been depressed over the dissolution of his marriage. Stewards met with Valenzuela again March 28 for less than an hour, during which time he presented documents from doctors regarding his mental state both currently and at the time of his suspension. They were entered into evidence to be considered for his punishment."He presented his case," Pedersen said. "He had a chance to say what he wanted.