Patrick Valenzuela did not appear at Hollywood Park today to ride his mounts and had to be replaced on all of them. I was at a simulcast site in the Phoenix area and I can tell you there was a sense of dread that I felt regarding Valenzuela while I was listening to Hollywood announcer, Vic Stauffer, call for the trainers of all of P. Val's mounts to report to the Jockey's Quarters to find replacements.
Valenzuela is undoubtedly one of the most talented riders that the sport has ever seen. His work on greats like Sunday Silence and Arazi lives on in the annals of racing. However, Valenzuela is also undoubtedly one of the most troubled riders that the sport has ever seen. He returned to his base of California in 2010 after receiving a license to ride based on him undergoing a stringent series of drug and alcohol tests. The DRF.com story on Valenzuela's no-show quotes the California Racing Board as saying the tests are "unprecedented due to its continual nature and strict conditions."
The same story says that Valenzuela had gone south to San Diego to visit his girlfriend on Wednesday. Valenzuela has been riding fantastically since returning to California and was fifth in the recently concluded Santa Anita's meeting's rider standings. For Valenzuela's sake, let's all hope for the best in regard to his absence. He is too great to go missing from the sport again for any stretch of time for whatever reason.
Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!