HOLLYWOOD PARK : Valenzuela Nearly Waits Too Long to Pull Out of His Riding Slump


The best finish during Hollywood Park's closing day was provided by Pat Valenzuela.

Three victories behind Gary Stevens in the jockey standings and mired in a one-for-33 slump going into Monday's races, Valenzuela won four times in seven tries and earned his first title at the track, 60-59.

After winning the second race aboard No Doubles Match, the third on Frontline Fable and the sixth with Cuddles, Valenzuela was tied with Stevens, who had to settle for three seconds and two thirds from seven opportunities.

High Mesa, the 7-2 third choice in the seventh, was his only remaining mount, and when the gray gelding went wire-to-wire, Valenzuela thrust his whip into the air, then exchanged hand slaps all the way back to the jockeys' room.

"A lot of praying helped," said Valenzuela, who held the lead throughout most of the 67-day meeting. "I knew I had some good horses today and I just wanted to work hard and get really lucky."

In what was an unusually tight race, Laffit Pincay finished third with 55 victories. Alex Solis followed with 53 and Julio Garcia had 50.

For only the second time in 49 runnings, the $276,100 Sunset Handicap was won by a female.

Duplicating Typecast's 1972 victory, Petite Ile led almost every step of the way and defeated Live The Dream by a half-length for her third victory in four U.S. starts.

A 4-year-old daughter of Ile de Bourbon, Petite Ile was making her Southern California debut after winning two stakes at Golden Gate, including a June 16 handling of males in the Golden Gate Handicap.

Ridden by Corey Black, the 8-5 favorite completed the 1 1/2 miles on turf in 2:25 3/5. The $163,600 victory increased Petite Ile's earnings to $694,069 for her owner, French banker Jean-Francois Malle.

"I felt real confident," said trainer Ed Gregson after Petite Ile's sixth victory in 12 lifetime starts. "She'd beaten a field like this up north, she'd trained well and I thought she was going to like the course. She trained well on the dirt here and at Santa Anita and she ran well on hard ground over there (in Ireland and England.)

"I don't think ground means anything to this filly. I was mostly concerned with the fact that there would be no pace and nothing for her to run at because she has a reputation of waiting for horses and needing something to run at. But I guess it didn't matter.

"She ran well, Corey rode her well and she relaxed. It looked like she was having fun out there, pricking her ears all the way around."

With long-distance opportunities limited for fillies and mares, Gregson might let Petite Ile test the boys again in the Del Mar Invitational Handicap Sept. 3. The other option is the $500,000 Beverly D. Handicap two days earlier at Arlington Park. The Beverly D. is for fillies and mares, but it is three-sixteenths of a mile shorter than the Del Mar race.

"If we're going to send her to Japan (for the Japan Cup in November), we don't want to have a lot of shipping," said Gregson. "So, we're weighing those two races."

Wherever Petite Ile goes, Black will be glad to follow.

"Mr. Gregson gave me free rein," he said. "He said don't worry about it if she's on the lead. She'd never really broken well with me, but today she jumped well and then she was just loafing out there. She had her ears pricked all the way.

"I started picking it up about the half-mile pole and she got into the bit when she felt Live The Dream coming up from behind. When I chirped to her in the middle of the turn, she sailed on away. I thought she would win by three or four, but Live The Dream held on tough. She really ran great.

"She's probably better when she has something to run at, but she doesn't pull. That's one of her best assets."

Obviously fond of the Hollywood Park turf--he had earlier victories in the Fiesta Handicap and Hollywood Derby--Live The Dream, the 5-1 third choice, was 3 1/2 lengths clear of Soft Machine, the longest shot in the field at 100-1.

Last in the field of nine was Valdali, the 2-1 second choice and runner-up to Petite Ile in the Golden Gate Handicap. Wide throughout in his first race with blinkers, he was sixth after 1 1/4 miles, but wound up losing by more than nine lengths.

Continuing a Hollywood Park trend, the track's on-site attendance was down 4% from last year's spring-summer meeting.

The average crowd for the 67 days this year was 18,250, contrasted with 19,044 in 1989.

Combining on-track and the 10 inter-track sites, the combined average attendance was only off slightly--26,287 this year compared with 26,383.

The combined overall handle showed an increase of 1.4%, from $6,368,927 to $6,460,647.

Criminal Type, who upset Sunday Silence in the Hollywood Gold Cup, was voted horse of the meeting by media members.

The Gold Cup was the unanimous choice for race of the meeting after the duel between the 1989 horse of the year and Criminal Type.

Wayne Lukas, who led all trainers with 23 victories, one more than Richard Mandella, was named top trainer and his Deposit Ticket and Steinlen were also winners. The former, who defeated Avenue Of Flags in Saturday's Hollywood Juvenile Championship, was chosen the top 2-year-old. Steinlen was selected top grass horse. Other winners included Gary Stevens (top jockey), Bayakoa (top older filly or mare), Jovial (top 3-year-old), Garden Gal (2-year-old filly), Omar Berrio (top apprentice) and Elusive Road (top claiming horse). Beginning at the $10,000 level, the 5-year-old Kennedy Road gelding won four times, the last while carrying a $40,000 tag.

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