Sep 9, 2010


Jockey Patrick Valenzuela has been blessed over the years with a certain bonhomie that, no matter how many times he has burned the racing population, there's a tendency to consider his misdeeds as "victimless".

I don't think so.

Patrick burned me and my Santa Barbara Stable partners but good by failing to keep his engagement aboard our horse Sunny Blossom in the Frank DeFrancis Memorial. The DeFrancis was the richest sprint in the country, other than the Breeders' Cup ,with a $300,000 purse.

Sunny Blossom was capable of six furlongs in 1.07.1, a Santa Anita record which still stands. It made sense to take him to Baltimore in hopes of upsetting champion Housebuster.

A number of our partners made the trip to Maryland, excited to take on the best eastern sprinters. The Kesslers from Seattle; the Caligiuris from New York and Santa Barbara; the Koenigs from Los Angeles; Nick Ben-Meir from Beverly Hills; Bob Estrin from Hollywood and various extended family boosters were all on hand.

Patrick was due to take the "red-eye" from Los Angeles which would give him plenty of time to prepare for the race. Despite calls to the hotel there was no word from our jockey. An hour before the race he finally called the stewards and claimed to be sick.

We had to scramble for the best jock we could find, namely Edgar Prado who was tops in Maryland but a far cry from the household word he was to become. His English skills were limited.

In the confusion in the paddock our trainer failed to give the word to Prado that Sunny Blossom did not like to be whipped, nor did he want to change leads so there was no point in trying to make him change.

Housebuster went to the front and never looked back. In deep stretch it was apparent that Sunny Blossom could not win. To my horror I watched as the substitute jockey whacked our horse a number of times as if he was trying to get him to change leads. You could see him swerve to try and escape the left handed stick.

Sunny Blossom exited the race dead lame in the stifle and did not run again for many months.

The partners on hand had spent tens of thousands of dollars in order to attend one of the nation's top races and came away with nothing but a sour taste and an injured horse.

Pat Valenzuela? Not a peep out of him.

I am not interested in retribution after all these years. But there is something called restitution and I challenge Pat to make good on his many indiscretions and donate a significant sum to the Winner's Foundation.

You're making money now. Ten grand ought to do it.