Comeback Win Sweet for Fernando Valenzuela
A win's a win, so it made no difference to jockey Fernando Valenzuela that his first victory in nearly 15 months came in a race that was reduced to three horses at Santa Anita due to four scratches, two at the starting gate.
The 33-year-old jockey won Sunday's fourth race by two lengths on Slewpy Come Home, a 3-year-old gelded son of Slewpy trained by Ted Pilmer. In doing so, he defeated his cousin, 40-year-old Patrick, who rode 3-10 favorite Redinal. That made the victory even better.
"It feels great, even in a three-horse field," he said. "I'll take them any way I can get them."
The victory was the first for Valenzuela since Jan. 24, 2002, when the San Diego native won aboard Walt's Wharf. He suffered a broken leftforearm for the second time in a spill on March 2, 2002, and was sidelined until his return aboard Da Nine on March 22 of this year.
Beating his cousin, Patrick, who has clinched his first Santa Anita riding title with 87 wins, 22 more than runner-up David Flores, with only five racing days remaining, made the triumph more gratifying.
"That was even sweeter," he said. "You beat the leading rider and people take notice of it. The Valenzuelas run one-two and people know you're back now. It makes me real happy."