10/07/2008 11:00PM

Baze breaks out of post-injury slump

Email

ARCADIA, Calif. - Michael Baze reached the finish line aboard Mr. Chairman in the $250,000 California Cup Classic at Santa Anita last Sunday and let fly a fist pump that released about three months of frustration.

The California Cup Classic was Baze's richest win since Georgie Boy won the $200,000 San Felipe Stakes here last March. In between, Baze suffered a neck injury at Hollywood Park in June that kept him out of action for a month.

Baze won 14 races at Del Mar, finishing in a tie for eighth in the standings. But in the early weeks of the current Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting, Baze had only two wins from 42 mounts through Sunday. Mr. Chairman's win came at the ideal time.

"It definitely cheers you up," he said. "I've had a slump going on for a while, too. To win a big race makes it even better. I haven't won a big race like that in quite a while."

Baze, 21, was the leading rider at the 2007 Hollywood Park spring-summer and Del Mar meetings, but has not won a title this year. He expected a drop in business when he returned from his summer absence.

"I was hoping for better and working hard to get there," he said. "You've got to prove it when you come back. I hope things keep picking up."

Baze has three mounts on Friday's eight-race program, including Opal Haze in the featured $52,000 allowance race over 1 1/8 miles on turf. He has four mounts on Saturday's nine-race program, but does not have a ride in the $100,000 Harold Ramser Handicap.

For the Breeders' Cup, Baze has two early hopefuls - Elusive Bluff, winner of the recent Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont Park, in the Juvenile Turf, and the longshot Santa Teresita in the Ladies' Classic.

Baze said that his neck is no longer an issue. "I've almost forgotten about it until someone asks me," he said.

More wins like the one aboard Mr. Chairman will leave the subject firmly in the past.

Curlin will work on holiday card

Curlin, the reigning Horse of the Year, will work between the fourth and fifth races on Monday, Santa Anita officials announced on Wednesday.

The winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park in his last start on Sept. 27, Curlin is being prepared for a defense of his title in the Breeders' Cup Classic, which will be run here on Oct. 25.

Curlin is scheduled to work five furlongs in company with another horse trained by Steve Asmussen, Hawaii Calls. Curlin has had one workout since arriving in California on Sept. 28, going a half-mile in 52.80 seconds on Monday.

Georgie Boy targets Damascus

Georgie Boy may start on the Breeders' Cup program on Oct. 25, but it will not be in a Breeders' Cup race.

Trainer Kathy Walsh said she is considering the $100,000 Damascus Stakes for 3-year-olds over seven furlongs for Georgie Boy. The race is scheduled after the Breeders' Cup races are run on Oct. 25.

"We're looking at it," Walsh said. "It's a tough race to start back going seven-eighths."

Georgie Boy has not started since winning the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes over 1 1/16 miles here in March. He was expected to be a leading contender in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby last April when he was sidelined by a hind-end injury.

Georgie Boy did not resume training until late June, and has been prepared slowly for a comeback. He worked six furlongs in 1:11.60 on Saturday, the fastest of 18 works at the distance.

"He went a little faster than I wanted," Walsh said.

Georgie Boy's competition in the Damascus will include Into Mischief, the winner of the CashCall Futurity last December who has not started since finishing second to Georgie Boy in the San Vicente Stakes in February, and Kool Comic, who won the California Cup Starter Sprint Handicap last Sunday.

The Walsh-trained Solar Miss makes her stakes debut in Saturday's Harold Ramser Handicap for 3-year-old fillies over a mile on turf. Solar Miss will be attempting to win her third race in four starts.

Walsh said she has taken a cautious approach to Solar Miss's campaign. "I don't run her too much," Walsh said. "She's not a real robust filly and I baby her a little."

Solar Miss won a six-furlong maiden race on turf at Hollywood Park in June, finished third in an allowance race at Del Mar on July 25, and returned on Aug. 22 to win an optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles on turf.

Solar Miss is part of an eight-filly field in the Grade 3 Ramser, which is led by Tasha's Miracle, the runner-up in the Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap at Del Mar in July, and the first three finishers in the Sandy Blue Handicap at Del Mar in August - Sweeter Still, Dawn Before Dawn, and Gorgeous Goose.

"It will be a tough race with Tasha's Miracle, but we've got to take a shot," Walsh said.

Bear Now likes training on dirt

Bear Now, the winner of the Kentucky Cup Distaff at Turfway Park last month, is in training at Santa Anita for the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic on Oct. 24. Her preparation will include regular exercise on the track's infield dirt track and workouts on the Pro-Ride synthetic surface, according to exercise rider Cassie Garcea, who accompanied the filly.

Trained by Woodbine-based Reade Baker, Bear Now will be a longshot in the BC Ladies' Classic, which is led by the undefeated Zenyatta. Bear Now arrived last Saturday and had her third day of training on the training track on Wednesday.

"We train her on dirt, so we'll probably keep doing that," said Garcea, who accompanies Baker's traveling horses. "She really likes it so far."

A four-length winner of the Kentucky Cup Distaff, Bear Now won the Fitz Dixon Cotillion Handicap at Philadelphia Park and was eighth in the BC Distaff - now the Ladies' Classic - at Monmouth Park in 2007.