08/07/2008 12:00AM

Halfway through meet, Baze best in the clutch

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Saturday marks the halfway point of the 43-day summer meet, and it is a good time to purge the Del Mar handicapping notebook. With stuff like this . . .

* Bet you can't name the California rider who has become the best finisher at Del Mar. Would you believe Tyler Baze? The re-energized jockey (second in the standings) has won seven of eight photo finishes (neck, head, or nose win margin), including one dead heat. The 7-1 won-and-loss record by Baze in photos leads Rafael Bejarano (3-6); Garrett Gomez and Victor Espinoza (2-4); Corey Nakatani (1-5); and Jon Court (3-0).

* The only photo Baze lost was July 19 on Awesome Gem, whose sharp comeback stamps him as a legit Pacific Classic contender. That creates a problem for Baze, who is expected to ride Hollywood Gold Cup winner Mast Track in the Pacific Classic. Too bad - Awesome Gem probably has a better chance in the Pacific Classic than Mast Track.

* Baze is so hot that his top mounts keep entering the same top races. He faces another potential conflict Sept. 1 in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante. Baze rode Evita Argentina to a slow (1:17.51) victory Wednesday in the Grade 3 Sorrento Stakes; he rode Empressive Lady to a highly rated (87 Beyer) maiden win on July 27. Empressive Lady is the best Debutante candidate, but political considerations will influence which filly Baze rides.

* Speaking of political repercussions, it looks as though Isaias Enriquez is out as the main stable jockey for Tommy Town Thoroughbreds. Through Wednesday, someone other than Enriquez rode the last five Tommy Town-owned runners.

* Popular racetrack horn blower Jay Cohen has played "Call to the Post" thousands of times at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, and Fairplex Park. Cohen takes off Del Mar, but his heart will be here Saturday when a fast-working firster that was named after Cohen debuts in race 3. His name? Trumpet Player Jay. The Orientate colt is owned by Alan and Lee Klein and trained by Mark Glatt. "He is pretty nice," Glatt said, referring to the horse. But the trainer added, "I just don't know if I have him screwed down 100 percent."

* Does it make sense to back a 6-1 shot at odds of 3-1? Of course it does not. And while it would be fine sport if Black Mamba's owner pays $300,000 to make her eligible to the $2 million Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, paying the steep tag makes sense only if she races another year. Black Mamba would earn about $1.2 million winning the Breeders' Cup, which loosely translates to a $300,000 wager at 3-1 odds. Barring an unlikely win in the Yellow Ribbon, Black Mamba's odds will be twice that high in the Breeders' Cup. But here's the thing - trainer John Sadler said plans are for Black Mamba to run next year at age 6. In that case, paying the supplement might make sense, after all.

* You have to believe the BC Filly and Mare Turf winner is more likely to emerge from the 1 3/16-mile Beverly D. at Arlington on Saturday than the modest field Black Mamba defeated Sunday at Del Mar in the Grade 1 John C. Mabee Handicap. The only knock on Beverly D. favorite Precious Kitten, the country's best female turf runner, is that she has not won beyond 1 1/8 miles.

* Hacks everywhere are writing handicapping columns that can be titled "Who I like in the Arlington Million." Let's just keep it simple - the 2-1 favorite Archipenko is a virtual cinch, assuming front-runners Sudan and Spirit One compromise each other out front.

* It will not happen, but the undefeated filly Zenyatta would be favored if she faced males Aug. 24 in the Pacific Classic, and the 108 Beyer Figure she earned winning the Grade 2 Clement L. Hirsch last weekend - under wraps - would give her the second-highest last-start figure, behind Student Council's 112.

* Speaking of Zenyatta, it is hard to believe her owners, Jerry and Ann Moss, have not won a Breeders' Cup race. That is one reason Zenyatta will stay in her own division and win the historically significant race formerly known as the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

* Only 27 days until the next dirt race in Southern California - the Los Angeles County Fair meet at Fairplex Park begins on Friday, Sept. 5.

* Sure glad California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has agreed to chair the Breeders' Cup Host Committee. Considering his cozy relationship with tribal casinos, it is amazing Schwarzenegger can find his way to a racetrack. Yes, he is a Republican. Yes, I voted for him. Handicappers pick the wrong horse two out of three times.

* Not enough handicappers keep score in public. Which is one reason Del Mar is so, um, fun. Because we do keep score in the daily Del Mar wagering column at drf.com. But darn it, things have not gone to plan this season. My return on investment after 19 days of racing is a whopping $1.06 for each $2 wagered. Sure am proud of that.

* From the department of weird statistics: Mike Mitchell is the second-leading trainer at Del Mar (9 for 41), but Ima Offended's loss Wednesday in race 5 was Mitchell's seventh consecutive losing favorite. The streak would have been broken in race 4, but Mitchell-trained winner North Fork had $5 less wagered on him to win than favorite Angus.

* Azul Leon destroyed the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile field by four lengths, and you have to respect him Sunday in the Grade 2 Best Pal. Or do you? All seven runners Azul Leon trounced at Hollywood returned in easier spots. None won; their combined record since is 0 for 9.

* The Grade 2 La Jolla Handicap will be run Saturday at Del Mar. And good luck to Tiz West or whoever wins the La Jolla. Because the next leg of the 3-year-old grass series - the Del Mar Derby on Aug. 31 - will be won by either Let Us Prey or Gio Ponti.