Del Mar Thoroughbred Club completed 2003 with an all-time record for pari-mutuel handle and the highest on-track attendance since the addition of inter-track wagering in 1988. Including advance deposit wagering for the second year, total handle from all sources was a record $570,795,239 for a daily average of $13,274,308, an increase of 7.5 %. Advance deposit wagering, inaugurated in 2002, showed a dramatic increase in volume, totaling $40,674,317 for a daily average of $945,914, an increase of 50.2% compared to last summer's total of $27,080,281. On-track attendance totaled 725,922 for a daily average of 16,882, up 8.8 % from last summer.Trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Patrick Valenzuela made it back-to-back championships at Del Mar in 2003. Baffert, the white-haired native of Nogalez, AZ, accounted for his seventh consecutive conditioning title at Del Mar, saddling 23 firsts during the 43-day stand. His run of seven titles – starting in 1997 – ties the Del Mar mark established by Farrell Jones between 1960 and 1966. Second in the trainers' race went to Jeff Mullins with 15 winners.
Valenzuela finished first with 52 victories and away with his fifth Del Mar riding crown. He'd been a Del Mar champ previously in 1986, 1990, 1991 and last year. The Montrose, CO, native battled throughout the 2003 with Del Mar newcomer Julie Krone, but turned back his Hall of Fame rival in the final days of the seaside session. Krone finished second with 49 firsts, including a meet-leading nine stakes victories.
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