12/07/2010 2:20PM

Frey scores first win as apprentice in family business


Although he didn’t really seriously begin hanging around horses until two years ago, it’s no surprise that Kyle Frey became a jockey.

The 18-year-old apprentice is the grandson of Paul Frey, who ranked as one of the top jockeys in the Northwest and Northern California from the 1950s to the 1970s before becoming a valet. Kyle Frey’s father, Jay, has trained horses, exercises horses, and is currently a valet.

The teenager posted the first win of his career Sunday at Golden Gate Fields, rallying Terina from off the pace to score a $29.40 upset for trainer Robert Lucas. The victory came in the seventh race and was the eighth career mount for Frey.

Although racing is in his blood, Frey admits riding and being around horses “wasn’t completely second nature to me.”

He did know what awaited him when he returned to the jockeys’ room for the traditional “painting” given to a rider after his first win.

“I was glad when they stopped me outside the winner’s circle to talk about my first win,” Frey said. “I was thinking, ‘Good, this will put it off for a few more minutes.’ ”

Frey came back in the ninth race to finish third aboard pacesetting Bag’s of Fun. Earlier on the card, Frey finished sixth aboard 7-5 favorite Musical Genius in the fifth race.

After his victory, Frey said, “That makes up for the favorite I got beat on.”

Frey went to Washington two years ago and got a job at a ranch, learning the business from the ground up.

“I didn’t learn racetrack stuff at the ranch, but I did learn about horses,” he said. “I broke a baby, and there were hunter-jumpers there, and I’d jump them over fences bareback to learn about balance.”

Frey returned to Northern California and began jogging and galloping horses, getting a major boost from trainer Steve Miyadi.

“I worked a crash course,” he said. “I’d get on 25 horses a day.”

Frey’s agent is Ray Harris, who also books mounts for the world’s winningest rider, Russell Baze. Frey’s grandfather was Baze’s valet for many years, and his father is currently Baze’s valet.

“He’s very receptive to suggestions,” Harris said. “He works hard and has an affinity for what he does.”

Frey’s spot in the jockeys’ room is in Baze’s corner, and he says, “Russell has been helping me, and Leslie Mawing talks to me.”

Former jockey Paul Nicolo, a racing official who conducts film analysis for jockeys, also has taken Frey under his wing.

“We go over a lot of race replays, and he teaches me a lot of things, like sitting between two horses and waiting for room when one of them may slow down or spurt away,” Frey said.

Frey weighs between 104 and 106 pounds and follows a vegan diet that Harris introduced him to.

He says his name and family background have been beneficial to him.

“I feel like it helps a lot to get opportunities,” he said. “But I still have to do the work.”

Baze unlikely to lead U.S. in wins

When the racing week ended Sunday, Baze was tied for second in the race for most victories in the nation. Ramon Dominguez led with 352 wins, while Baze was tied with 341 victories with Deshawn Parker.

Baze is unlikely to lead the nation for a 12th time with Golden Gate returning to four-day weeks and taking the week off before Christmas.

Still, Baze, as usual, has the highest win percentage in the nation among leading riders at 29 percent.

“To be third, given the four-day weeks we have in Northern California, is amazing,” Harris said. “Individually, it’s been a good year for Russell, and we’ve been able to go out of town and pick up some big wins.”

Cathy’s Crunches eyes Calif. Oaks

Cathy’s Crunches, who made it 3 for 3 in Golden Gate Fields stakes races by winning the one-mile Corte Madera on Saturday, might run next in the $100,000 California Oaks at Golden Gate on New Year’s Day, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said.

Cathy’s Crunches had raced on the lead in winning two sprint stakes but sat back in the Corte Madera. She had some traffic problems into the lane, but when jockey Chad Schvaneveldt was able to get her clear, she exploded and was pulling away at the wire in what may have been her most impressive race yet.

Cathy’s Crunches used her speed to win the Golden Gate Debutante and the Golden Nugget, but the Golden Gate track was unkind to front-runners last week. Schvaneveldt said that on the morning of the race he and Hollendorfer discussed getting her to relax early in the race.

She broke flat footed, which was actually fine with Schvaneveldt, and settled into midpack.

“I didn’t want to goose her,” he said. “We learned that she’d rate. She relaxed nicely behind horses.”

Hollendorfer was at Hollywood Park and saw a replay of the race. He liked the way Cathy’s Crunches finished strongly.

“She got stuck behind horses but got out and finished well,” he said. “That’s a very good sign.”

◗ Smiling Tiger, who finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 on Sunday at Golden Gate and is likely to run next in the Grade 1, $250,000 Malibu at Santa Anita on Dec. 26, trainer Jeff Bonde said.