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HOLLYWOOD PARK : First Race Back Is No Joy Ride for Valenzuela

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Pat Valenzuela got a rude welcome back in his return to racing.

Not from the fans. The jockey, fresh from a six-month suspension, was greeted warmly in the paddock and in the post parade for the first race. Nor from his fellow riders. “Everybody said ‘Welcome back,’ ” he said.

Tu Eres Mi Heroe, the first of Valenzuela’s six mounts Sunday, wasn’t so kind. First out of the gate in the 1 1/16 mile race, the 4-year-old Inverness Drive colt quickly drew clear.

But Tu Eres Mi Heroe bolted on the first turn, and ran through a temporary rail on the backstretch. Valenzuela jumped off the 5-1 shot, who was ready to hurdle another fence, and wasn’t injured.

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“I felt like I was in the rodeo,” Valenzuela said. “I heard the buzzer and I jumped off.

“He went right through the first rail, and when he was going toward the second one, I jumped off. Fortunately, I landed on my feet. I tried to pull him up, but there was no way. It was the best ride I’ve had in six months.”

The best Valenzuela could manage Sunday was a second aboard favored Dark Ice in the second and a third with 8-5 choice Fly With Eagles in the third. This didn’t seem to bother the 28-year-old jockey, who was very upbeat when meeting reporters after Sunday’s seventh race.

“The reception’s been really nice,” he said. “A couple of families had banners saying, ‘Welcome back, Pat,’ and a lot of people have been giving me support. There wasn’t any negativity. It feels great to be out there riding again.

“I feel good. The first horse I rode got me so fit that I was able to ride the others without a deep breath. Mentally, I feel great and physically, I feel fine. I’m just going to take it one day at a time.”

Last in a well-bunched field after six furlongs, Pharisien, the 9-5 favorite, outfinished Marquetry by a head to win the $159,800 John Henry Handicap. He completed the 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:46 4/5.

A French-bred son of Kenmare, Pharisien has won three of four starts since he began wearing blinkers and the John Henry was his second consecutive stakes victory. He won the El Rincon Handicap at Santa Anita last month.

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Horse Racing Notes

Kent Desormeaux, who suffered a broken right wrist in a spill during Santa Anita’s ninth race March 17, will return to action Wednesday. He is scheduled on three horses: Chemo Savvy in the second, Andimo in the fifth and Tropical Stephanie in the eighth. . . . As part of his reinstatement, jockey Pat Valenzuela must be tested for drugs every other day, so he will be at Hollywood Park today for a test. . . . Eddie Delahoussaye, Chris McCarron and Corey Nakatani all won twice. After three weeks, Laffit Pincay Jr. leads the jockey standings with 17 winners, two more than Delahoussaye. Craig Lewis, Roger Stein and David Hofmans are tied for the lead among the trainers with six victories apiece.

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