12/22/2014 2:32PM

Baltas, Pedroza engage in physical fight at Los Alamitos

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Trainer of Grade 1-winning sprinter Big Macher, Richard Baltas is having the best season of his training career. Through Sunday, his horses had won 42 races and more than $1.9 million from 226 starts.

Simmering acrimony between a prominent trainer and top jockey erupted into fisticuffs on Sunday at Los Alamitos, where trainer Richard Baltas and jockey Martin Pedroza scuffled briefly before being separated by a security guard.

Baltas emerged from the scrap with a swollen nose after Pedroza struck him in the face with his helmet. Baltas claimed that Pedroza instigated the incident; Pedroza said it was Baltas who started the fight.

The incident occurred after the seventh race Sunday, closing day of the Los Alamitos winter meet. Tension between the trainer and jockey had grown after Baltas changed riders on a horse Pedroza had previously ridden to a second-place finish.

Pedroza said he was walking to the jockeys’ room after the seventh race when Baltas motioned to him. “I thought he wanted to talk to me,” Pedroza said. “I walked up to him, he put his chest [up] … and he grabbed me by the neck.”

Pedroza was unable to break free. “I tried to get away from him, and he made it more tight. I couldn’t get away. At that point, I’m getting really mad. So the security guard pulled me away … when he pulled me away, I got my helmet and I hit him in the nose.”

Baltas said Pedroza had taunted his help during the day, after the horse on which Pedroza was replaced finished off the board in the first race. By the end of the day, after race 7, Baltas had heard enough.

“I walked up to [Pedroza] and said, ‘You have something to say, say it to my face.’ And then he pushed me,” Baltas said. “I just grabbed him, put him in a head lock, and then security broke it up. Then he threw his helmet in my face while I was being held.”

Baltas, 53, was wearing a bandage on his swollen nose Monday morning at Santa Anita. Trainer of Grade 1-winning sprinter Big Macher, Baltas is having the best season of his training career. Through Sunday, his horses had won 42 races and more than $1.9 million from 226 starts.

Pedroza, 49, has been among the top 10 riders in Southern California for most of the past two decades. The all-time leading rider at Fairplex Park, Pedroza has been the regular rider for Grade 1 Cigar Mile winner Private Zone.

According to Baltas, stewards plan to take up the matter when they return on Friday, opening day of the winter meet.