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Jockey Patrick Valenzuela announces his retirement

December 9, 2011 |  3:14 pm

Jockey Patrick Valenzuela, who won the 1989 Kentucky Derby aboard Sunday Silence and won more than 4,000 races in 33 years of riding horses, announced his retirement on Friday.

His agent, Tom Knust, said Valenzuela, who recently had his gall bladder removed, was concerned about health and weight issues.

"He thought now was a good time to retire," Knust said.

Valenzuela, 49, won 4,333 races and 15 riding titles in a career that began in 1978. He rode seven winners in the Breeders' Cup. He also has endured substance-abuse problems that caused the California Horse Racing Board to suspend his license several times.

He returned to riding in California last year in his latest comeback and recently passed a drug test. Knust said Valenzuela intends to take another drug test next week in an attempt to leave no doubt that he has recovered from his previous problems.

Valenzuela told the Daily Racing Form, "This operation has opened my eyes to the abuse my body has taken over the years. I’m not young anymore. I think my health is more important than getting out there and making the weight every day."

Knust said Valenzuela hopes to stay involved in the racing industry in some capacity.

-- Eric Sondheimer

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