01/09/2004 12:00AM

Eager to ride, Baze targets Jan. 22 return


ALBANY, Calif. - Russell Baze is getting eager to ride.

Baze, fourth on the all-time career list with 8,484 victories, finished second in the nation in wins in 2003, with 410. He has not ridden since suffering a displaced fracture of his right collarbone Nov. 30.

He will be examined Thursday, and, if he is cleared to ride, his agent, Ray Harris, will begin booking mounts for him Jan. 22.

"I just got cleared to begin jogging so that I can start to get my legs into shape," said Baze, 45.

Since 1992, Baze has won 400 races a year every year except 1999, when he missed more than a month with a back injury.

He was injured Nov. 30, when his mount, Snoopy Cat, stumbled out of the gate. Baze was struck by After the Run, who had broken slowly, and suffered a broken collarbone, a badly bruised chest, and broken rib, which has since healed.

The break in the collarbone created a bad split, and Baze had to endure a manipulation to align the bones so they would heal together properly.

"They considered putting a screw in, but said the healing time would be the same and that it would heal stronger this way," Baze said.

Baze said he has been unable to play golf and hasn't gotten on one of his horses or ridden the motorcycle Bay Meadows gave him after he notched his 8,000th victory in 2002.

"I've been a good patient," he said.

Jockeys uninjured in spill

Two jockeys came away from an accident in Thursday's final race without any apparent serious injuries. Lil Miss Obnoxious, who finished fourth, fell shortly after passing the wire and bumped into Redbird. Victor Miranda, who rode Lil Miss Obnoxious, and Kevin Radke, who rode Redbird, were able to walk away from the mishap. Redbird was caught by an outrider as she pulled up, but Lil Miss Obnoxious had to be put down on the track.

'Margarita' favored in sprint

Margarita Midnight, Miss New York, and Lovely Ticket, each undefeated at 4 1/2 furlongs on the turf, meet at that distance in a $32,000 claimer on Sunday.

Margarita Midnight is 2 for 2 at the distance, while Miss New York and Lovely Ticket each won their lone starts at 4 1/2 furlongs. Margarita Midnight has been meeting better lately and is the one to beat with her stalking style.

Owner has license suspended

Stewards at Golden Gate Fields suspended the license and privileges of owner Jimmy Dan Buff after he failed to appear at a formal hearing Wednesday. Buff, who has no horses currently stabled at Golden Gate Fields, was to address charges alleging violation of five California Horse Racing Board rules, including one involving licensed bookmaking.