08/25/2007 11:00PM

Baze suspended and fined for whip violation

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SAN MATEO, Calif. – The Bay Meadows stewards suspended jockey Russell Baze 15 calendar days (Sept. 2-16) and fined him $2,500 on Sunday for misuse of the whip while aboard Imperial Eyes in the first race on Thursday. Baze whipped the horse twice after he broke down near the wire.

The stewards – Darrel McHargue, Dennis Nevin and Randy Winick – dismissed charges of conduct detrimental to racing and animal cruelty, which they brought against Baze at a Saturday hearing.

Baze will miss 11 days of racing at Bay Meadows.

Baze has 72 hours to appeal the ruling, but said he probably would not.

“I think it’s a fair decision,” said Baze, 49, a Hall of Famer and the all-time leader in wins by a jockey.

“I’m not going to try to make any excuses. I don’t think there’s any excuse. It was the heat of the moment in the shadow of the finish line when I made what turned out to be a bad decision. Suffice it to say, I made a bad decision, and I’ll take responsibility.

“He was off, but I never felt in danger of going down. I think it looked a lot worse on replay than it seemed during the race.”

McHargue said the stewards would have no immediate comment on the ruling.

Baze was aboard Imperial Eyes, the 3-5 favorite, who was leading by seven lengths in the stretch in an $8,000 maiden claimer Thursday. The 4-year-old gelding took a bad step inside the sixteenth pole, but seemed to re-gather himself and then switched leads. He broke down in his left front leg, just as Baze hit him with his whip and then hit him a second time.

Imperial Eyes was found to have a condylar fracture of the cannon bone. He was vanned to the receiving barn and then was returned to his stall, but he had to be euthanized later in the day.

Dr. William Grantham, the attending veterinarian for Art Sherman, trainer of Imperial Eyes, said that he could not say whether Baze’s whipping of the horse caused the injury or made it worse.

Sherman’s assistant and son, Steve, who saddled Imperial Eyes, said neither he nor his father faulted Baze’s ride.

Said Baze: “Hopefully, this will not be the defining moment of my career. There are no do-overs. Hopefully, I’ll be judged by the right decisions I’ve made in the past, and the right decisions I’ll make in the future.

“I am sorry if I caused the horse to suffer or, in any way, I caused a bad light to be cast on horse racing. I truly regret that. In this day and age of athletes and public figures making public apologies, it can begin to ring hollow. I want people to know that I am truly sorry. Nobody knows how contrite I feel in my heart.”