Jockey Pat Valenzuela has had his fair share of issues off the track, with substance abuse problems and numerous suspensions. The 53-year-old rode his first race back after 22 months in Delta Downs' $1 million Jackpot on Nov. 21, finishing eighth aboard Anthony Margotta Jr. trainee Memories of Winter. He has now ridden seven races total, and won two at the Fair Grounds on Saturday. ESPN's Bill Finley is encouraging the racing community to root for his comeback.
There is no doubt that the jockey has had an impressive career: seven Breeders' Cup victories, a near miss in the Triple Crown with Sunday Silence winning the first two legs and finishing second in the Belmont in 1989, a total of 4,348 career wins and over $165 million in earnings. Finley says, “while a jockey's license is a privilege, someone should be judged for what they do on the track and not off.” He argues that a great number of jockeys and trainers have been re-granted licenses following rule violations that attempt to cheat the public, like the use of buzzers or illegal medications. Valenzuela has never been guilty of anything of the sort; in fact, Finley says of him that “few jockeys have ever been more cognizant of the need to get everything they can out of a horse because that's what the bettors deserve.”
Valenzuela, Finley states, “may be troubled, but that's different from being a bad guy, which he's not.” The jockey has made more successful comebacks than would be thought possible, considering his age and the amount of time he has been out of the saddle. Finley also urges the racing community to root for Valenzuela to remain sober, because it is a difficult struggle that he will have to consistently fight to overcome. “But,” Finley says, “whether he makes it or not, Valenzuela has every right to be out there riding, and that includes in California.”
Read more at ESPN.com.
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