INGLEWOOD, Calif. (December 9, 2011)—Agent Tom Knust confirmed Friday that jockey Patrick Valenzuela, 49, is retiring, ending a career that spans some 33 years.
Valenzuela, 49, rode for the final time Nov. 13 at Hollywood Park, finishing fourth aboard Quality Council in the eighth race, an optional claimer at six furlongs on turf. He won with two of eight mounts during the current Autumn meet.
A winner of 4,333 races in a career interrupted on several occasions by substance abuse issues and suspensions, Valenzuela told the Daily Racing Form’s Steve Andersen recent emergency surgery to remove his gall bladder, a battle with weight and knee problems were the main reasons for his retirement.
“This operation has opened my eyes to the abuse my body has taken over the years,’’ Valenzuela told Andersen. “I’m not young anymore. I think my health is more important than getting out there and making the weight every day.
“I have to reduce every day. It’s a constant battle. I would ride at 120 (pounds), but the struggle to do that has taken its toll.’’
Valenzuela, who rode his first winner Nov. 10, 1978 at Sunland Park in New Mexico, won 15 riding titles in Southern California, including five at Hollywood Park. He topped the Spring/Summer standings in 1990, 2002 and 2003 and was the leading jockey at the Autumn meet in both 1991 and 2003.
He won the first two legs of the Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby and Preakness) with Sunday Silence in 1989 and was a winner of seven Breeders’ Cup races, including the 1987 Sprint at Hollywood Park with the filly Very Subtle. His most recent Breeders’ Cup success was a front-running upset aboard Adoration in the 2003 Distaff during the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita.
A father of four daughters, Valenzuela ranks sixth all-time at Hollywood Park with 1,416 wins, 100 of which have come in stakes. The last win of his career came aboard 14-1 shot Miss Mittagong in the sixth race Nov. 12 at Hollywood Park.
Valenzuela, who won 113 races in 2011, has total purse earnings of nearly $163,893,554, leaving him 19th – according to Equibase – on the all-time list.
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