01/08/2003 1:00AM

Baze wastes no time getting back in picture


PORTLAND, Ore. - Gary Baze had been sidelined for more than six months with a badly broken ankle before launching his comeback aboard Questionable Road in Saturday's OTBA Stallion Stakes at six furlongs at Portland Meadows. But Baze, 47, showed no signs of rust.

In typical fashion, Baze sat chilly on Questionable Road while three rivals dueled through a half-mile in 46.16 seconds, then he and Questionable Road came on relentlessly to prevail by a half-length in 1:14.

A moment later, Baze, who had just notched the 3,204th win of his stellar career, had caught his breath enough to joke: "Tell my agent to take me off the rest of my mounts. I'm too tired."

Baze didn't have access to many live horses to help him get fit for his return to riding, so he did the lion's share of his preparation on a mechanical horse.

"I jogged a few horses for Sharon Ross at Donida Training Center last week, but other than that I just did a lot of work on my Equicizer," he said. "I used it before when I was coming back from four years as a Jockeys' Guild rep, and it works well for me. I just put on some race films and ride. It allows me to concentrate on working the muscles I need to ride.

"I'm still tired. There is nothing quite like riding a real horse in a real race, but my ankle feels good, and that's the most important thing. I thought it would take three months to heal and it took six, but now it is as good as ever."

Baze said he will ride at Portland Meadows for two more weekends, then move his tack to Golden Gate until shortly before the 2003 Emerald Downs meeting opens on April 19. He said his wife, former rider Vicky Baze, will again serve as his agent at Emerald.

Chronic neck pain forced Vicky Baze to retire in 2001 with 1,772 wins, third-most of any woman rider.

One-sided Stallion Stakes

Besides providing a stage for Baze's return, the $10,000 OTBA Stallion Stakes served as a showcase for the sire Cisco Road and for trainer Jim Fergason, who stands Cisco Road at his farm in Vancouver, Wash.

Cisco Road, a son of Northern Baby, led all Northwest sires with 12 2-year-old winners in 2002, and he ranked second with six stakes winners. He added to his credentials in the Stallion Stakes, when his progeny finished first, second, third, and fifth in a field of five.

Fergason did even better, saddling the first four finishers: Questionable Road, Little Jackie, Cisco's Baby, and Mismeridia. The fifth entrant, Jane Driggers Debutante winner Carlyn Road, tired to last as the 3-5 favorite after dueling for the early lead.

Jones back from Meteoric ride

Jockey Clark Jones has returned to Portland Meadows after an eventful nine-month stretch during which he rode Meteoric, one of the nation's top Quarter Horses, in some of the country's richest races.

Meteoric, a 3-year-old from the barn of Northwest trainer Lin Melton, won 8 of his 10 starts last year, his only losses coming by a head when he was third in the $1.8 million All-American Futurity at Ruidoso and by a half-length when he was second in the $1.3 million Los Alamitos Million Futurity at Los Alamitos. Jones rode Meteoric, who earned $456,617, in all of his races.

"I started getting on him last February at Sun Downs, and we all knew right away that he was special," said Jones. "He just doesn't make any mistakes. It was a lot of fun for me to ride him. I had never been in any million-dollar races, but I couldn't think about that. I just tried to go out there and ride my race."

Jones said Meteoric, who is currently turned out, will be pointed toward the Rainbow Derby at Ruidoso in late May.

* Ursula Gibbons, executive secretary for the Oregon Thoroughbred Breeders Association, said that the stallion season auction held at Portland Meadows last month raised $17,340 to be divided between funds to supplement the purse for the OTBA Stallion Stakes and a bonus for any horse who wins both the OTBA Sales Stakes and the Oregon Futurity.

* Horse for course In Search of Fame improved his record at Portland Meadows to 19 wins from 21 starts with a victory over allowance company on Saturday. In Search of Fame, a Quarter Horse, paid $4 to win and $3 to show after scoring by an authoritative half-length.