02/20/2003 12:00AM

Baze the focus of protest

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ALBANY, Calif. - A group of about six Golden Gate Fields jockeys met with the stewards Monday to voice their opinion that Russell Baze, the track's leading rider, is receiving special treatment.

The incident that prompted the meeting occurred in Sunday's first race, a one-mile $8,000 maiden claimer for 3-year-olds, which Baze won aboard Quick Release.

In the race, Baze made a move for a hole along the rail and his mount brushed with Consent Agenda, ridden by A.L. Castanon. Castanon took up sharply and finished last.

The jockeys said they were not upset that Baze wasn't disqualified but that the stewards didn't ask him to view films or meet with them about the incident, which is standard procedure.

They also said Baze was laughing in relief after the decision and claimed that he quipped he had been given a "green light," a statement Baze denied and stewards could not verify.

"Russell's a good rider, but he made a mistake there," said one rider present at the meeting who requested anonymity. "Anyone else would have been taken down and gotten days."

Stewards told the riders that Castanon's horse initiated the original contact. Castanon, who did not attend the meeting because he was working horses at Bay Meadows, disagreed with that assessment.

"It upsets me they say it was my fault," he said. "My horse wasn't getting out." Castanon questioned why, if he caused the incident, he was not summoned by stewards.

John Herbuveaux, a track steward, said he hoped the meeting defused any resentment, even if the jockeys didn't agree with the decision.

"They seem to think there are two sets of rules. There aren't," he said.