04/09/2009 12:00AM

Baze opts for Battle of Hastings


ARCADIA, Calif. - The decision came down to jockey Tyler Baze. For Saturday's $100,000 La Puente Stakes at Santa Anita, Baze had the option of riding either of trainer Jeff Mullins's starters - Battle of Hastings or Leedstheway.

He has chosen Battle of Hastings, the winner of the Grade 3 Baldwin Stakes on March 1. Baze expects Battle of Hastings to accomplish much more this year.

"He showed his ability in the Baldwin," Baze said. "I think he could be a really good horse. Every work he gets better."

Owned by Michael House, Battle of Hastings made his 3-year-old debut in the Baldwin, run on the hillside turf course. Sent off at 7-1, Battle of Hastings rallied from fifth to win by 1 1/4 lengths. It was a far cry from his U.S. debut last November when he finished seventh of eight in the Grade 3 Generous Stakes at Hollywood Park.

"He had no idea what was going on the whole race," Baze said. "It took him about two months to come around."

A winner of 3 of 7 starts, Battle of Hastings has drawn the outside post in a field of 12 for the La Puente, which is run over a mile on turf. The post is a slight concern for Mullins.

"If Tyler can save some ground, I think we'll be okay," Mullins said.

Leedstheway, second in the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes in February and fourth in the Pasadena Stakes on turf on March 15, starts from post 3. He made his turf debut in the Pasadena.

The styles of the two Mullins-trained runners complement each other. Leedstheway is a front-runner, while Battle of Hastings is a stalker.

Mullins said that Leedstheway, who will be ridden by Joe Talamo, is likely to be sent to the front.

"The horse, I think, has a free-running style," Mullins said. "If he makes the lead by himself, he could relax."

Leedstheway could face early pressure from Wall Street Wonder, who was third in the Pasadena Stakes for trainer Bob Baffert.

Battle of Hastings is one of three stakes winners in the field. Charlie's Moment has won stakes at Fairplex Park and Golden Gate Fields and is making his turf debut in the La Puente. Lesson in Deceit won the Tempe Handicap at Turf Paradise on March 14 and is making his first start away from the Arizona track.