Jockey Patrick Valenzuela, 53, did not waste any time winning his first race upon his return to races.
Valenzuela was riding in his first race since he sustained a hand injury last February in Louisiana.
The winner of 4,365 thoroughbred races, Valenzuela picked up the mount on the quarter horse Linda Tee Fire in the 870-yard first race at Ruidoso Downs on Sunday. He placed Linda Tee Fire on the lead and they won by a comfortable four-and-one half lengths.
“It felt really good,” Valenzuela said moments after the race with a wide grin. “I've been working a lot of horses at Santa Anita and riding the bike 20 miles a day.”
Valenzuela does not have jockey's license in California, but has an exercise rider's license in that state. He has a provisional jockey's license in New Mexico and is subject drug testing at any time.
Valenzuela began riding in 1978 and has had suspensions throughout his career.
He has also found success at the highest level. He won the 1980 Santa Anita Derby aboard Codex when he was 17-year-olds. He teamed up with the legendary hall of fame trainer Charlie Whittingham to win the 1989 runnings of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness aboard Sunday Silence. They were then second in the Belmont Stakes.
He has also won seven Breeders' Cup races from 1991 through 2012.
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