09/27/2010 1:43PM

Baze to miss first week of Oak Tree meeting


INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Jockey Tyler Baze will miss the opening week of the Oak Tree at Hollywood Park meeting that begins on Thursday to continue his recovery from facial injuries sustained at Del Mar in late July, according to his agent, Vic Stauffer.

Stauffer said on Sunday that Baze has been working horses in recent days, including at Hollywood Park on Sunday, but said the 27-year-old jockey wants to target a return for the second week of the meeting.

“He’s not quite ready,” Stauffer said. “He’s very close. He said he wants to feel 100 percent.”

Baze suffered facial injuries in an accident at the starting gate at Del Mar on July 24. He was struck by the head of his mount and was hospitalized for a few days for surgery to have a fractured bone stabilized near an eye. Initially, Baze hoped to return at Del Mar in August and even worked horses in advance of a possible return, but abandoned the plan, focusing on a comeback at the Oak Tree meeting.

One likely mount for his return in early October is Cost of Freedom, the Grade 1 winning sprinter whom Baze worked on Sunday. Cost of Freedom is a candidate for the $250,000 Ancient Title Stakes on Oct. 9.

When he returns Baze will be playing catchup to build a list of mounts for the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5-6. Stauffer said a more immediate goal is rebuilding Baze’s business in Southern California after an absence of more than two months.

“My first goal is getting him on the program and getting him on a winner,” Stauffer said. “My focus is to win a race and then start going forward.”

Crown of Thorns going long

In his often-interrupted career, Crown of Thorns has been at times a candidate for the Triple Crown races and a top-class sprinter as an older horse. This fall, he will back to longer distances, and possibly running in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6.

Saturday, Crown of Thorns will start in the longest race of his career in the $250,000 Goodwood Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on the main track, a key prep for the BC Classic, which is run over 1 1/4 miles.

In the last year, Crown of Thorns has finished second in three consecutive Grade 1 sprints, but trainer Richard Mandella wants to change the short-term focus.

“I’ll try him farther,” Mandella said. “I think he’ll run better.”

Owned by B. Wayne Hughes, Crown of Thorns, 5, has been plagued by illness and injury, limiting the horse to 2 wins in 7 career starts. Last fall, he was second in the Ancient Title Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Sprint, but was sidelined after that race by a throat ulcer and later body soreness. In his only start this year, Crown of Thorns finished second in the Grade 1 Pat O’Brien Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 28.

Mandella needs to see an outstanding performance in the Goodwood to justify a start in the BC Classic.

“Let’s do this and we’ll know better,” Mandella said. “Who knows? If he runs well, we’ll look at the Classic.”

At 3, Crown of Thorns won the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes over 1 1/16 miles, a prep for the Santa Anita Derby, but was sidelined for the rest of 2008 because of a fractured shin that required surgery.

It is the performance in the Lewis that gives Mandella optimism about the Goodwood.

“When I ran him in the Robert Lewis at 3, he looked like he’d be good at that distance,” Mandella said.

The Goodwood field is expected to include Awesome Gem, who won the Hollywood Gold Cup in July, and Richard’s Kid, who won the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August. Other candidates are Twirling Candy, the undefeated 3-year-old; Dakota Phone, who was third in the Pacific Classic; and Informed, who won the 2009 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar.

Grade 1-winning juveniles work out

The juveniles who won Grade 1 races at Del Mar in early September worked on Sunday and Monday for Saturday stakes over 1 1/16 miles.

J P’s Gusto, the winner of the Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 8, worked six furlongs in 1:12.80 on Sunday. He will start in the $250,000 Norfolk Stakes.

Tell a Kelly, who won the Darley Debutante on Sept. 4, worked seven furlongs in 1:26.20 on Monday, preparing the $250,000 Oak Leaf Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.