Del Mar Sets Handle Record; On-Track Attendance Improves

(From track report)
Del Mar Thoroughbred Club ended its 63rd summer season of Thoroughbred racing Sept. 11 by maintaining its position as the national leader in daily average attendance for the twelfth consecutive year, while achieving a new track record for total pari-mutuel handle.

The total handle from all sources, which included for the first time advance deposit wagering, was a record $529,171,119. The daily average of $12,306,305 was an increase of 2.1 percent over 2001.

Officials also reported that advance deposit wagering by internet or telephone exceeded expectations, totaling $25,124,892, for a daily average of $584,300. This was the first season of ADW for Del Mar.

In spite of a shift in racing dates resulting in Del Mar running a full week after the Labor Day holiday, on-track attendance of 667,280 in 2002 exceeded the total of 664,594 in 2001, when Del Mar's meeting ended on the first Wednesday after Labor Day.

On and off-track attendance totaled 1,223,751 for a daily average of 28,459, down 2.1 percent from 2001, but still number one in North America, ahead of Saratoga's 27,660 this summer. On-track attendance averaged 15,518, up 0.4 percent, while off-track crowds at Del Mar's 16 satellites totaled 556,471 for a daily average of 12,941, a decrease of 5 percent from a year ago.

Trainer Bob Baffert continued his Del Mar mastery with yet another training title and Patrick Valenzuela captured his first riding title at the sea shore in more than a decade.

Baffert registered his sixth straight training title at Del Mar in a runaway, and capped it off with his seventh straight victory in the Del Mar Futurity on closing day. He finished with 30 victories during the 43-day summer meet.

The 49-year-old native of Nogalez, AZ, started his run in 1997 with 27 firsts and has been on top every year since. His Futurity string began in 1996 with Silver Charm and continued through this year's edition with his victory by Icecoldbeeratreds. During the 2002 meet, he scored 16 of his 30 victories with maidens, including 12 2-year-olds.

Finishing second in the 2002 training battle was Bill Spawr with 16 winners.

Valenzuela was an easy winner of his first riding championship since 1991 with 45 victories.

The 39-year-old rider from Montrose, CO, had previously won titles at Del Mar in 1986, 1990 and 1991. He had last ridden at Del Mar in 1997, returning this year after overcoming personal problems to resurrect his career.

Finishing second to Valenzuela in the standings was Alex Solis, with 34 winners.