02/15/2007 1:00AM

Baze finds relief with a win


ARCADIA, Calif. - An emotional Tyler Baze broke out of a 31-race winless streak in an otherwise nondescript maiden claimer at Santa Anita on Wednesday, and the jockey later admitted that the recent slump has left him badly frustrated.

Baze won Wednesday's fifth race on Ready Maid ($9.80) and had tears in his eyes when he returned to the winner's circle. The victory was only his eighth win in the first 36 days of the meeting, and his first since Jan. 31.

"I haven't won a race in a month," he said on Wednesday. "You get frustrated with the seconds and thirds."

Through Wednesday, Baze was tied for 13th in the standings with 8 wins from 145 mounts. He has had 15 seconds and 17 third-place finishes at this meeting.

Baze said that recent barbs from fans lining the path from the racetrack to the jockeys' room have affected his mood. Santa Anita is one of the few tracks where customers can walk alongside jockeys after a race. The proximity allows fans to meet jockeys and ask for autographs, but also can expose jockeys to the raw emotions of losing bettors.

"It's tough when people are talking bad about you," he said. "All the way back to the jockeys' room you hear about it. People ask if you're stiffing them. I want to say, 'Dude, why don't you ride them?' I've got bills like everyone else.

"They've got to have ability to win. I have to be able to put them in the right spot."

Baze, who finished seventh in the standings at this meeting last year with 39 wins, said the slump has not changed his daily schedule. He was at Santa Anita for morning workouts on Wednesday and said he has been to Hollywood Park "a lot" on recent mornings.

The slump has been the latest in a series of setbacks in the last two years for Baze, 24, who won the Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding apprentice jockey of 2000. In the second half of 2005, he battled anorexia and was suspended seven days for failing a breathalyzer test at Hoosier Park in Indiana.

Baze insisted on Wednesday that he has no personal or health problems.

"I weigh about 110 pounds stripped, and I pull two pounds," he said. "Of course, that goes back on after I eat something when I'm done riding."

Monday, Baze will ride one of his leading mounts, the turf mare Mea Domina, in the $150,000 Buena Vista Handicap over a mile on turf. Baze has ridden Mea Domina to three graded stakes wins. The Buena Vista will be Mea Domina's first start since a fourth-place finish in the Matriarch Stakes last November.

"I'm excited about her," Baze said. "If she's going right, it's hard to outrun her. If I can get her to the gate quietly, she's double-tough. If she gets nervous . . . she's a difficult filly to relax."

Union Avenue returning

Union Avenue, the winner of the Grade 2 American Derby last July, will make his first start for trainer Neil Drysdale in Saturday's $75,000 Daytona Handicap on the hillside turf course.

Previously trained by Bill Mott, Union Avenue has not started since finishing sixth in the Bryan Station Stakes at Keeneland in October.

Union Avenue, 4, must beat Night Chapter, the winner of the Cotton Fitzsimmons Mile at Turf Paradise on Jan. 6, as well as Coronado's Pride and Taikun, who each won his last start on the hillside turf course.

Cobalt Blue may try San Felipe

Cobalt Blue, the winner of a six-furlong allowance race for 3-year-olds on Wednesday, may return in the $250,000 San Felipe Stakes over 1o1/16 miles on March 17, trainer Doug O'Neill said.

Owned by Merv Griffin, Cobalt Blue made his first start since August on Wednesday.

"I think the San Felipe makes all the sense in the world," O'Neill said. "It's a big jump up, but he'll have to be competitive to have any chance" for the Triple Crown races.

Lava Man has strong workout

Lava Man, trained by O'Neill, breezed a half-mile in 49.20 seconds at Hollywood Park on Thursday, preparing for the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 3. Lava Man will be favored in the Big Cap, a race he won last year.

O'Neill said that Lava Man "had his head down and was wanting more" during the workout. "It was a perfect move between races."

Lava Man won the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Turf here on Jan. 27 in his first start of the year.

Ball Four and El Roblar, the second- and third-place finishers in the San Antonio Handicap on Feb. 4, worked five furlongs on Thursday at Hollywood Park in preparation for the Big Cap.

Ball Four worked five furlong in 1:00.80, while El Roblar was timed in 1:01.80.

El Roblar is trained by Richard Mandella, who is contemplating a Big Cap start for Boboman, the winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup in December.