11/05/2007 12:00AM

Family business is winning

EmailARCADIA, Calif. - A jockey did not need to be named Baze to get a slice of the generous California Cup prize money last Saturday at Santa Anita. It only seemed that way.

By the end of the day, after more than $1.3 million had been passed around to a bunch of happy owners, members of the Baze riding clan had won 5 of the 10 Cal Cup events. Richard Migliore, a hardcore New Yorker riding his first Cal Cup, managed to snag one of the Cal Cup starter stakes on longshot Lil Mitch for Bill Spawr, and he wasn't about to complain.

"Listen," Migliore said, tongue stuck firmly in cheek, "I'm just happy to get a crumb that fell from the table of Baze."

It may be that way for a while. Michael Baze, 21 next April, took the 2007 championships at Hollywood Park and Del Mar, and won the Cal Cup Matron and the other starter stakes. Cousin Tyler Baze, who turned 25 on Oct. 19, wrapped up his first Oak Tree title over the weekend with the help of a victory in the Cal Cup Juvenile Fillies.

And don't forget their 49-year-old cousin Russell Baze, who was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career before either Michael or Tyler were born. Russell, the all-time leading race winner, with 9,897 and counting, descended upon Santa Anita from his Northern California roost to win both the Cal Cup Juvenile, aboard Sierra Sunset, and then the Cal Cup Classic with Bold Chieftain.

Little wonder that young Joe Talamo, who won the Cal Cup Mile aboard Unusual Heat and the Sprint with Bilo, wanted to know where he could sign up.

"Hey, Mikey," shouted Talamo from across the jockeys' room. "Can I call myself a Baze today? Please?"

"You can't be Joe Baze," Mike replied. "But you can be Joseph."

This may be a good time for a brief genealogical review. Bert and Mabel Baze started the whole thing up in Washington with their sons Earl, Kenny, Joe, and Carl. Joe was a Northwest riding great who sired Earl, Dale, Michael, and Russell. Carl, no slouch in the saddle himself, begat Gary Baze, a perennial leader at Washington tracks. Joe's son Earl fathered Tyler, while Joe's son Michael named his son Michael Carl Baze.

Within the maze of Bazes, there are enough story lines to hatch an HBO special.

Gary Baze, still riding at age 52, is married to Vicky Aragon, the most famous woman jockey produced West of the Rockies.

Michael Baze the elder squandered a promising career as a jockey and disappeared into a bottle before getting straight in the last year and back in the game, riding in New Mexico.

Tyler Baze, the Eclipse Award winning apprentice of 2000, was headed in a similar, self-destructive direction until good sense and strong help got him back on a healthy path.

As for Michael Baze the younger, after being kicked in the face in a fall at Aqueduct on Dec. 12, 2003, he is lucky just to be among the living. Three surgeries later, he still breathes only through one nostril, and his nose takes a turn that lends serious weight to an otherwise youthful countenance.

Even the relatively serene world of Russell Baze was disrupted this past September when he was suspended 15 days and fined $2,500 for misusing the whip on a horse that eventually broke down and was euthanized. Baze made no excuses, profusely apoligized, and took his lumps.

"The time off turned out to be pretty good for me," Baze said Saturday. "The second week after I came back, I think I won something like 19 races. I might schedule a break like that for me every year, but certainly not the way it happened this time."

Baze had ridden Bold Chieftain to 5 of his 6 career wins, but last Saturday they were facing two-time California Horse of the Year Lava Man for the first time.

"I figured if we were ever going to beat Lava Man it would be today," Baze said. "The only question was the distance, since it was farther than he's ever really run good. But he did have an excuse last time on soggy turf [when fourth in the nine-furlong Bay Meadows Handicap]. He was just floundering."

This time around, Bold Chieftain was flying, right past the tiring Lava Man to take the Classic by a half-length over second-choice Celtic Dreamin. Lava Man moved with familiar energy on the turn, taking the lead between calls, but he could not sustain his run and lost for the fifth time in his last six starts.

"At least he tried today," said Corey Nakatani, ever loyal. "He put in his old run and just came up short."

Lava Man needs a good rest, that much is clear, and tell him not to worry while he's out. If nothing else, the Cal Cup offered evidence that there are products of California ready to carry the flag in top open company. The 3-year-old filly Romance Is Diane turned in a huge performance to win the Matron by 6 1/4 lengths, and then there was Runforthemoneybaby, who cruised to a 5 1/2-length triumph in the Juvenile Fillies. The fact that they both come fully equipped with their very own Baze only sweetens their prospects.