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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
• ARE PATRICK VALENZUELA’S RIDING DAYS OVER?
• EXCITING LAKERVILLE RETURNS TO RACES SUNDAY
• HANDSOME MIKE MEETS SOFTER IN CLOCKERS’ CORNER
IS RETIREMENT AT HAND FOR PATRICK VALENZUELA?
Are Patrick Valenzuela’s riding days over?
According to a text he sent his agent Saturday morning, they could be.
“I’m sorry, Tom. I’m not riding any longer, I’m sorry,” is the message agent Tom Knust received this morning. “He didn’t say he was retiring,” Knust added. “He said he wasn’t riding anymore.”
Valenzuela, 51, took off his two scheduled mounts Friday. With 20 mounts through the first 20 days this meet, Valenzuela had not won a race and did not finish in the money on any of them.
A native of Montrose, Colorado, Valenzuela is a 13-time riding champion in Southern California who won the Kentucky Derby on Sunday Silence in 1989 and captured seven Breeders’ Cup races. Popular with horsemen and handicappers alike in an occupation checkered with suspensions for a myriad of reasons, Valenzuela has 4,346 victories from 28,398 mounts in a career that began in 1978.
LAKERVILLE COMES BACK IN SUNDAY’S CLOCKERS’ CORNER
Lakerville returns to the races Sunday after an absence of 17 months. The 6-year-old Unusual Heat horse trained by Barry Abrams for Madeline Auerbach runs in the $75,000 Clockers’ Corner Stakes for older horses at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf.
Lakerville broke his maiden over the same venue in his first start, Oct. 22, 2011. He has had only five races since, all in turf sprints at either Hollywood Park or Del Mar, and has never finished worse than second, winning four times.
On paper, Lakerville seems like a stone closer in turf sprints, but looks can be deceiving, Abrams says.
“He’s not a turf sprinter; he’s a two-turn horse that’s never had the opportunity to run two turns,” is Abrams’ assessment. “All the races that came up for him were sprints. I didn’t want to miss a race, so I just kept racing him.
“He came up with an injury, and even though it healed, every time I tried to bring him back, he came up with something small, and he’s just too good of a horse to rush, so I gave him plenty of time.
“He’s an exciting horse. He’s probably the only horse in the history of Thoroughbred racing that ran the last quarter (mile) in 21 seconds. We haven’t seen the best of him yet.” ***
Handsome Mike, meanwhile, makes his first start in an ungraded stakes race. His first graded stakes was the Grade III Generous Stakes in which he finished second on Nov. 27, 2011.
Since then, the versatile 5-year-old Scat Daddy horse trained by Doug O’Neill for J. Paul Reddam has run in 21—count ‘em—21 consecutive graded stakes, nine of them Grade I’s. He won the Grade II Pennsylvania Derby at 19-1 in September of 2012.
He has run in turf sprints, turf routes, synthetic sprints, synthetic routes, on a sloppy track and in dirt routes, winning three times and earning $922,823.
“This is first his ungraded stakes,” O’Neill allowed. “He’s such an honest, hard-knocking horse. He’s just short of a million dollars, and that tells you what horses he has faced—Wise Dan, Game On Dude, Paynter, Mizdirection, Unbridled’s Note. He’s got a big chance on Sunday.”
The field for the Clockers’ Corner: Handsome Mike, Mario Gutierrez, 12-1; Sweet Swap, Rafael Bejarano, 7-2; Drill, Martin Garcia; Boat Trip, 4-1, Joe Talamo; Di Giorgio, Tyler Baze, 8-1; El Commodore, Gary Stevens, 7-2; Lakerville, Corey Nakatani, 8-1; Ankeny Hill, Edwin Maldonado, 15-1; and Ready for More, Mike Smith, 3-1.
FINISH LINES: Best of luck to trainer Mike (Whitey) McCarthy on sending out the first runner in his own right at Santa Anita today, Norastone, in the $200,000 California Cup Oaks. The 42-year-old McCarthy worked 11 years for six-time Eclipse Award winner Todd Pletcher before leaving last month to form his own stable. “I only have a few runners right now, but I expect to get moving soon with some 2-year-olds,” McCarthy said . . . .San Pasqual winner Blueskiesnrainbows, prepping for the Santa Anita Handicap on March 8, worked five furlongs Saturday for Jerry Hollendorfer under regular rider Martin Pedroza in a minute flat . . . With Gary Stevens up, CashCall Futurity runner-up Candy Boy went six furlongs in company with Kozani for John Sadler. Candy Boy was clocked in 1:13.40, while Kozani was given 1:14.60. Sadler also sent San Vicente candidate Kobe’s Back five furlongs in a bullet 59 flat . . . Impressive maiden winner Fashion Plate, prepping for next Saturday’s Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes at one mile for 3-year-old fillies, worked five furlongs for Simon Callaghan in 59.80 . . . Citation Handicap winner Silentio, gearing up for the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile on March 8, went five furlongs for Gary Mandella in 1:02.80. “He galloped out very strong,” Mandella said.