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HRN Original Blog:
Bay Area Backstretch

Jose Valdivia Jr. and the Chief

On June 11th, jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. guided Ruler On Ice to an upset win in the Belmont Stakes. It was the highest point in the jockeys 17-year career.

A win like that can sometimes vault a jockey to the top of the horse racing world. But in the case of Valdivia, life returned to the norm of a rider looking to find a home.

The jockey returned to his home base at Monmouth Park but was unable to attain the success he had hoped for. In September he moved his business to southern California to ride the Fairflex and Santa Anita meets. But again, his business was not as expected. Now,  the 37-year-old from Lima, Peru has returned to Golden Gate Fields, where he was as an apprentice jockey back in the early 1990‘s.

“My Career has been a whirlwind the last couple of years,” Valdivia said. “But when you have the opportunity to ride for a big outfit or a big agent, you have to take it. Ray Harris is a top agent and having him offsets the short fields.”

Harris is the longtime agent of the sports winningest jockey Russell Baze. Valdivia expects to make the bay area his home in due time.

“I love northern California and I did when I was here the first time. After we get settled in my family will start looking for housing up here.”

Validiva has won 1,185 wins including the 2001 Breeders Cup Mile aboard Val Royal. But since his Belmont Stakes win, has won just 14 races in the past five months and has 43 wins this year.

Over the past few years, his numbers have decreased in both wins and mounts.

“I felt the impact when we lost Bobby Frankel (who died of cancer in 2009). I could always count on Bobby to have horses for me. I also rode a lot for Ron Ellis down south, but he too took a hit when he lost a few of his owners and I lost some business there.

“But I’ve always had confidence in myself as a rider and I still do. I want to show people I can compete anywhere. It’s all about winning races, Winning opens doors for you. Winning is the bottom line.”

Valdivia has three mounts on Friday, his first day at the track.

Bold Chieftain to Make Final Start?

Friday’s $100,000 Grade 3 All American Stakes drew just six horses, but it’s such a contentious group, I think BCS would have an easier time ranking college football teams than picking a winner in this one.

Headlining the group is the eight-year-old, fan favorite Bold Chieftain. The Chief is a multi stakes winner with a bankroll of 1.6 million. But battling him will be rivals Our Nautique and Uh Oh Bango.

Chief broke a string of four straight second place finishes when he won the Bull Dog Stakes at Fresno in October, beating Uh Oh Bango by 1 ¼ lengths. Prior to that, he had lost to Our Nautique in an allowance race and the Joseph T. Grace Stakes at Pleasanton and he lost a head bob to Uh Oh Bango (below) in the Berkeley Stakes in May.

The wild card in the race could be the improving Dunmore East trained by Lloyd Mason, who has won two straight, including a win over Our Nautique two weeks ago.

In a radio interview on Sunday, Chiefs trainer William J. Morey Jr indicated that this may very well be his final race. In the interview, he stated that part of him has been purchased by Victory Rose Thoroughbreds and that he may be retired after this race to start breeding.

So if you are a fan of Bold Chieftain,  make your way out to the races on Friday and pay tribute to the Chief.


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Older Comments about Jose Valdivia Jr. and the Chief...

It was a mistake to come back to Southern CA, the jockey colony here is very strong. And especially with the short fields, I don't think Valdivia stood a chance. I remember when he rode horses such as "Ghostzapper & Big Jag". Hopefully those days aren't gone for him. GL in Northern Cali. And don't forget about Kevin Krigger, he's been riding very well up there.
Why didn't Valdivia try to stay in New York this winter? With the increased purses and the chance to be a top 10 jockey after some depart for Gulfstream, it seems like a good situation. Now he's going to be third fiddle to Russell Baze & Aaron Gryder, so there's very good chance that he'll never be on the best horse in any race since there's 5 or 6 horses in most races. Did he go out there because Russell Baze is planning on retiring soon? At least its a beautiful part of the country.

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Meet Don August

I have been involved in horse racing, from a fan to sportswriter, for the past 30 years. The first time my dad took me to the track, I picked a horse named "Black Tornado" and when he won, I was hooked.  From then on, I spent weekends and occasional school days at the race track, and my enjoyment of the sport led me to try my hand at being a jockey agent, which i did for 3 years. When that didn't work out as I had hoped, I concentrated on my writing career by covering big races and doing summer fair handicapping, off and on, for the Contra Costa Times.

Today, I stay involved in the sport by being part of a group that currently owns two horses stabled at Golden Gate Fields. As all owners, we have dreams of someday having that special horse.  Besides writing about horse racing I enjoy covering many sports and have had the honor of meeting and writing about some incredible athletes.

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