08/15/2003 11:00PM

Baze gets days after inquiry


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Five riders representing the Bay Meadows Fair jockey colony met with stewards Saturday to complain about a Friday decision that they say points to favoritism for leading rider Russell Baze.

Baze, who rode at Del Mar on Saturday, was not at the meeting and declined an offer to have a representative at it. He later spoke with the stewards by phone from Del Mar.

Stewards called an inquiry after Friday's second race when Baze rode Mystery Hit to victory in a six-furlong, $12,500 claimer for fillies and mares. The race result was allowed to stand, although Baze and Mystery Hit repeatedly bumped with Roberto Gonzalez and Minister Lady at the head of the stretch. Minister Lady faded to fourth after the incident.

After discussing the incident with Baze on Saturday, stewards suspended him for three days "for altering course without sufficient clearance around the far turn, causing interference." The suspension is for Aug. 20-22, when racing resumes at the State Fair in Sacramento. Baze did not plan to ride in Sacramento.

This is the second time this year that northern California riders have met with the stewards regarding Baze. Six riders met with the Golden Gate Fields stewards in February to complain that Baze received "special treatment."

The riders who met with the stewards Saturday were Gonzalez, Chad Schvaneveldt, Adalberto Lopez, Miguel Perez, and Alfredo Miranda.

Steward John Herbuveaux agreed with the riders that Baze's mount made contact with Gonzalez's mount and was involved in "serious ping-ponging" as the field straightened for home. He said that he understood the concern of the riders but that the initial contact that precipitated the later bumping came at a blind spot on the track.

The riders said that Gonzalez had kept his horse straight and that Baze had made a mistake in trying to get through. "Nine times out of 10, he's on the best horse, but if he can bull his way through like that, we've got no chance," Schvaneveldt said.

Closing-day feature

Seven older sprinters running five furlongs highlight Monday's closing-day card in a $32,000 optional claiming race.

Stakes winners Beyond Brilliant and Lethal Grande and the sharp Lyttle Creek, all of whom are in for tags, top the field. Lyttle Creek has won two straight and three of his last four.