05/10/2011 7:43PM

Churchill Downs: Jockey Michael Baze found dead in stable area

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Benoit & Associates
Michael Baze had ridden at the Keeneland meet and planned to work through the Churchill Downs meeting.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Michael Baze, the leading jockey at Arlington Park last summer and a member of the famed Baze riding family of the western United States, was found dead Tuesday afternoon in his vehicle in the stable area of Churchill Downs. He was 24.

A Louisville Metro Police spokeswoman, Alicia Smiley, said Tuesday evening that police have undertaken an investigation into the death. Churchill spokesman John Asher said track officials were not at liberty to comment on the death.

Bobby Kelly, whom Baze had recently hired as his agent, said he tried to call and text Baze all morning but got no response. Kelly said backstretch workers informed him that Baze apparently had been in his vehicle in the same spot all morning before someone called 911 and emergency workers found Baze dead in the vehicle later in the day.

Baze was the son of retired jockey Mike Baze and is the first cousin of active jockey Tyler Baze. His uncle is Gary Baze, while Russell Baze, the Hall of Fame jockey who is the all-time winningest jockey in history, is the first cousin of his father, Mike.

Baze had intended to ride at the Churchill spring meet after having most recently competed at Keeneland, where his final mount came on April 29. He did not have any mounts so far at the meet, which began April 30. Baze was fourth in the standings with 34 wins at the Oaklawn Park meet that ended April 16.

Born in Renton, Wash., Baze began his riding career in 2003. His best year was 2007, when he was the leading rider at Hollywood Park and Del Mar, with his mounts earning more than $9.3 million. In all, he won 918 races from 6,969 starts for mount earnings of $32.4 million.