09/11/2002 11:00PM

Valenzuela wins another riding title


DEL MAR, Calif. - After Patrick Valenzuela clinched the riding title at Del Mar on Wednesday, his thoughts turned to his next major objective: finding top rides for next month's Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Arlington Park.

Valenzuela finished the 43-day Del Mar meeting with 46 wins, 12 more than runner-up Alex Solis, to wrap up his second consecutive riding title on the Southern California circuit. He also won the title at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting after returning last December from a 22-month suspension for substance abuse violations.

"This was a dream come true," Valenzuela said. "I think it shows the horsemen that, competitive-wise, I'm giving 115 percent to my business. I think I'm getting some good stakes mounts, but I think there is more I could be riding."

Valenzuela became the sixth different rider in six years to win the riding title at Del Mar. He has won four titles at Del Mar, in 1986 and consecutive titles in 1990 and 1991.

Valenzuela had two winners on Wednesday's closing-day program, but was disqualified from second to fourth in the second race when Badgett's Mango was ruled to have caused interference.

Later on Wednesday, the stewards gave Valenzuela a five-day suspension for the disqualification. The suspension is scheduled to run during the first week of the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting, Oct. 2-6.

Because there are 10 stakes during the first week of that meeting, Valenzuela may appeal the ruling, although no decision had been made on Wednesday, according to his agent, Nick Cosato.

In coming weeks, Valenzuela will take a vacation in Hawaii, and said he will ride the final week of the Fairplex Park meeting.

Bob Baffert dominated the Del Mar trainer standings with 30 winners, for his sixth consecutive title. Bill Spawr finished second with 16 winners. Baffert is one shy of the mark for consecutive titles, established by Farrell Jones, from 1960-66.

Phone, Internet bets impact handle

The track set a record for all-sources handle - $529,171,119 - and average daily handle - $12,306,306 - which surpassed by 2 percent the marks of $518,763,115 and $12,064,258 from 2001.

Part of the increase came from the $25,124,892 bet through the telephone and Internet, a form of wagering legalized earlier this year.

The ontrack average handle of $2,298,684 was down fractionally from last year, and the average ontrack attendance reached 15,514, a fractional increase.

Attendance at satellite wagering facilities through California fell 5 percent, to 12,941.

Due in part to the telephone and Internet betting, purses were raised 5 percent midway through the meet and an additional retroactive payment is likely after financial documents are reviewed later this fall, according to track president Joe Harper.

Del Mar had a slightly different schedule than in the past few years. In 2001, the meeting had one day of racing after Labor Day but this year there were seven days following the late summer holiday.

"Considering the week after Labor Day that we didn't have last year, it was amazing to be up in attendance overall on-track," Harper said.

Came Home was voted the horse of the meet. He won his only start of the meeting, the $1 million Pacific Classic, beating among others Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner War Emblem, who finished sixth.

D'wildcat by DQ - again

For the second time this year, D'wildcat won a stakes through disqualification.

In Wednesday's $76,425 Live the Dream Handicap, D'wildcat finished second but was promoted to first after Devine Wind was ruled to have caused interference in the stretch.

In May at Churchill Downs, D'wildcat finished second to Snow Ridge in the Churchill Downs Handicap and was promoted to first.

In the Live the Dream, Devine Wind set the pace, but drifted out in the final sixteenth, causing jockey Kent Desormeaux to check aboard D'wildcat.

Devine Wind ran a mile on turf in 1:34.04, and was a length in front of D'wildcat at the finish. Kachamandi finished third in the field of six.

"It's not the way you want to win, but I think if I close his blinkers on the left side he'll blow by them," trainer Bob Hess Jr. said.

Hess said D'wildcat will be pointed to the $250,000 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile on turf at Santa Anita on Oct. 5, with the Breeders' Cup Mile at Arlington Park on Oct. 26 as a long-term possibility.

"He'll have to earn that," Hess said.

Solis turns day around

Alex Solis was given a five-day suspension for his ride on Devine Wind. The suspension is scheduled for Oct. 2-6.

Solis had better luck in the $75,000 California Equine Retirement Foundation Handicap, guiding Palmarola to her first stakes win in the United States. Confidently handled throughout, Palmarola rated behind pacesetter Ayanna to the final turn, took the lead in early stretch, and was roused in the final furlong to hold off Fancee Bargain. Palmarola ($3.20) finished six furlongs in 1:09.98. Fancee Bargain finished four lengths in front of Wild Tickle in the field of six fillies and mares.

The 5-year-old Palmarola won two stakes in Argentina and has won 2 of 4 starts since arriving in this country, including a seven-furlong allowance race at Hollywood Park in June. Trainer Richard Mandella insists she will be better at longer distances.

"She's not supposed to be a sprinter, but off her last race we thought she could do this," Mandella said.

Mandella said Palmarola will be pointed to the $200,000 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita on Oct. 2 or the $500,000 Overbrook Spinster Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 6.