12/23/2009 12:00AM

Baze back just in time for Lava Man


ARCADIA, Calif. - The comeback boys are reunited on Sunday.

After taking five weeks off to have a bothersome finger surgically repaired, jockey Tyler Baze was scheduled to return to action on Saturday at Santa Anita. On Sunday, he hooks up anew with the comebacking Lava Man, who is scheduled to make his first start since July 2008 in the Grade 2, $150,000 San Gabriel Handicap.

Baze rode Lava Man in his final two starts of 2008. Lava Man was retired, then put back in training after stem-cell therapy helped regenerate cartilage in an ankle. Lava Man was scheduled to return earlier this month at Hollywood Park, while Baze was sidelined. But wet weather kept Lava Man out of the Native Diver Handicap, in which Joel Rosario was scheduled to ride him. That gave Baze a chance to get back on the horse.

"Tyler was going to ride for us before he went on the shelf," Doug O'Neill, the trainer of Lava Man, said Wednesday morning. "We huddled up with the owners and came to the conclusion we wanted Tyler back if he was ready to go."

Rosario had conflicts in both Grade 1 stakes on Saturday, the Malibu and La Brea, and both times took off O'Neill runners, including La Brea entrant Pinkarella, who is owned in part by the Kenly family, which co-owns Lava Man.

"Tyler wanted to get back on him so bad," his agent, Ron Ebanks, said Wednesday morning.

Baze had been riding with a broken finger since Del Mar. A little more than one week following the Breeders' Cup, and after seeing three specialists, Baze had surgery. According to Ebanks, Baze's left pinkie was re-broken, the knuckle re-set, and a tendon tied down.

"The doctor said he would need at least a month to recover," Ebanks said.

So, Baze set his sights on the opening of Santa Anita. The early part of this week, he returned to the track and began working horses in the mornings.

Situation looks right for Salty Fries

The cards just might flop right for Salty Fries when she runs on Sunday in the $100,000 California Breeders' Champion Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, the supporting feature to the San Gabriel.

La Nez, the co-highweight in the Cal Breeders', was cross- entered and was expected to run against males on Saturday in the open division of this race. In addition, Antares World, who just missed against Salty Fries in the Corte Madera Stakes at Golden Gate last time out, is staying home in the Bay Area.

Salty Fries comes into the 1 1/16-mile Cal Breeders' having won three of her last five starts, including 2 of 3 around two turns.

"We thought the filly would get a little better as she progressed," Terry Knight, her trainer, said Wednesday. "We liked her a bit from the start. We were a touch disappointed with her first two races, because she trained better than she raced. As time went on and she stretched out, she started doing a little better.

"She's really doing good now. She's flourishing. We'll see if she's up to the level of competition."

La Nez won the Cal Cup Juvenile Fillies here in October before finishing sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

Another top contender is Evening Jewel, who is trying two turns for the first time. She finished second in a first-level Cal-bred allowance race against males in her last start Dec. 6 at Hollywood Park.

"I entered her in a filly race three times and it didn't go, so finally I just ran her against the boys," said her trainer, Jim Cassidy. "I've always felt she'd be better going a mile. She's doing really well."

Antares World will await a race at Golden Gate on Jan. 1, according to her trainer, Steve Specht.

American Lion stays sharp

Trainer Eoin Harty kept American Lion out of last weekend's CashCall Futurity to give him more time to develop following his win in last month's Hollywood Prevue Stakes. The promising colt, who could rank as one of this circuit's better Kentucky Derby prospects next spring, will not run again until the Grade 2, $150,000 Robert Lewis Stakes on Feb. 6, Harty said. American Lion stayed sharp on Wednesday morning with a half-mile work in 47.20 seconds.

"He worked super," Harty said. "The CashCall Futurity came up very salty, and he had missed some time. We had two back-to-back rainstorms when he was scheduled to work, so he missed some works. The Bob Lewis comes up perfect."

Harty also looked to the future on Wednesday morning, working, in company, 2-year-old full sisters to his best runners of recent years. Kayce Ace, a full sister to Colonel John, looked a little better than Well Armed's full sister Life Well Lived, when both were timed going three furlongs in 37 seconds.

Baffert works several notables

Take Control, an unraced 2-year-old colt who is by A.P. Indy and out of Horse of the Year Azeri, worked six furlongs from the gate in 1:11.80 on Wednesday morning as he nears his debut for trainer Bob Baffert. The time was the best of 21 at the distance.

"I'm not going to run him short," Baffert said.

Baffert worked several other notable runners, including Conveyance, a promising 2-year-old who has won both his starts, most recently against allowance horses at Hollywood Park. He flew five furlongs in 58.80 seconds, equaling the best time of 63 at the distance. Baffert said Conveyance would make his stakes debut in the Grade 3, $100,000 San Rafael Stakes at one mile on Jan. 16.

Baffert is also overseeing the training of Franny Freud, a 2-year-old filly sent west by trainer John Terranova, whose wife, Tonja, looks after Baffert's horses when they run in New York. Franny Freud worked five furlongs in 59.60 seconds in preparation for the Grade 2, $150,000 Santa Ynez Stakes at seven furlongs, also on Jan. 16.

Time off for Beautician

Beautician, who turned in an uncharacteristically lackluster race in the Hollywood Starlet last Sunday, will be getting a 45-day vacation at a nearby farm, according to Jordan Blair, the local assistant to trainer Kenny McPeek.

"She came back fine," Blair said. "She wasn't blowing. Our best theory is that we pulled the trigger one too many times."