Monday, 12 December 2011
: Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Patrick Valenzuela has retired from racing at the age of 49 after undergoing gall bladder surgery.
| Patrick Valenzuela |
The California-based jockey has retired after more than 4000 wins in a 33 year career due to recent gall bladder surgery and his constant struggle to maintain his riding weight.
"This operation has opened my eyes to the abuse my body has taken over the years,"' Valenzuela told DRF.
"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. The struggle to do that has taken its toll.'
Despite being regarded as a star in the saddle Valenzuela's career was punctuated by substance abuse-related problems that resulted several long suspensions from racing.
He was banned from riding in California after being arrested for drunk driving in 2007, which led to the termination of a conditional jockey's license.
Valenzuela rode in Louisiana and New Mexico for the next two years before regaining a conditional license in California in 2010.
Valenzuela rode his 4000th winner in 2008 and his mounts won and purse earnings of almost $164 million, placing him 19th on the all-time US list.
He rode his first winner in 1978 at Sunland Park in New Mexico and at 17 became the youngest jockey to win the Santa Anita Derby.
Valenzuela scored his biggest career triumphs when he piloted Sunday Silence to win the 1989 Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.
He also won seven Breeders' Cup races, including the 1991 Juvenile aboard champion Arazi.
His most recent G1 victory came in August when Acclamation won the Pacific Classic at Del Mar.