04/26/2011 12:42PM

Hollywood Park: Baze beginning comeback at home base

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Benoit & Associates
Well Monied, with Joel Rosario riding, wins the 2009 Honeymoon Handicap.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The first stage of jockey Tyler Baze’s comeback from facial injuries sustained last summer began on Monday. He finished last of four in a maiden claimer at Turf Paradise, where he has been exercising horses this month for trainer friends.

Thursday, the comeback shifts to his home circuit in Southern California where he has three mounts on an eight-race program at Hollywood Park.

“I’m ready,” Baze said over the weekend. I’ve been ready.”

Baze has spent recent weeks exercising horses in the mornings at Turf Paradise for trainers Mike Chambers and Kevin Lewis, having received doctor’s clearance to resume riding in late March. By going to Turf Paradise, Baze was able to launch his return to fitness in a much quieter atmosphere than in Southern California. Baze was scheduled to ride at Turf Paradise on Wednesday before flying back to California.

At Hollywood Park, he is booked to ride Southern Sugah in the third race for trainer Doug O’Neill, Joyful Success in the sixth race for Peter Miller, and Krasavitsa in the eighth race for Robert Troeger.

Baze suffered facial injuries when he was struck in the head by his mount behind the gate at Del Mar last July, and needed several months to recover. Initially, surgery was required to stabilize facial bones. Baze also battled double vision, which postponed a comeback he had hoped would start last fall or at Santa Anita during the winter.

“I’ve been getting on seven or eight horses a day and can’t wait to start,” he said.

While gaining mounts this week could be difficult in a crowded jockey’s room, the first full week of May could be busier for Baze, since several of the circuit’s leading riders will be at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby weekend.

“I kind of planned it that way,” he said.

Baze’s mounts will be booked in Southern California by Craig O’Bryan, who also represents David Flores.

Baze, 28, won the Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding apprentice jockey of 2000, and has won two riding titles in Southern California – the 2004 spring/summer meeting at Hollywood Park and the 2007 Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting. Baze has 1,774 career wins.

Well Monied set for Wilshire start

Last fall, when the stakes-winning filly Well Monied was being prepared for the Keeneland November sale in Kentucky, some potential buyers saw a prospective racehorse and not a future broodmare, as owner Arno Grether and trainer Howard Zucker envisioned.

“They were vetting her out to race her,” Zucker recalled on Tuesday. “They wanted full sets of X-rays and scans. [Grether] didn’t feel like he wanted anyone else to run her. He said he’d control her destiny.”

With that in mind, Well Monied was bought back by Grether for racing, Zucker said.

A winner of 4 of 10 starts and $386,300, Well Monied will make her first start in 11 months in a tough running of the $100,000 Wilshire Handicap at Hollywood Park on Saturday. Well Monied, by Maria’s Mon, won the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap in 2009 and placed in two Grade 1 stakes that summer – a second in the American Oaks and third in the Del Mar Oaks.

Well Monied made just two starts last year, winning an allowance race at Santa Anita – during which an earthquake occurred – and finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Gamely Stakes in late May. She had a a small lesion in a distal sesamoidian ligament diagnosed last summer, leading to a temporary retirement.

Zucker had hoped for a prep race at Santa Anita earlier this spring, and considers the Grade 3 Wilshire over a mile on turf as a prep for the Gamely Stakes on May 30.

“She’s ready to get a comeback race in her to be ready for the Gamely,” he said. “That would be my main objective. I’m sure everyone going into this race has the same thought in mind. It’s a big ticket race.”

The list of probable starters includes Blue Maiden, Burg Berg, Dubawi Heights, Evening Jewel, Hemera, Lilly Fa Pootz, Talktoomuch and Vamo A Galupiar. Rafael Bejarano has the mount on Well Monied, which will be his first time aboard the mare.

“We’re pretty thrilled to have Rafael,” Zucker said. “He worked her the other day and got to know her. Our main thought for the year is to win a Grade 1. She’s training as good or better as she ever has.”

Lucinda Mandella heads retirement fund

Lucinda Mandella, a former executive with the Thoroughbred Owners of California, has been named the executive director of the California Retirement Management Account, which raises money for the care and retraining of retired horses in the state.

Mandella, the wife of trainer Gary Mandella, took the position earlier this month and will oversee fundraising and publicity in an office based at Santa Anita. Founded in 2007, the California Retirement Management Account is funded partially from a portion of purse earnings and through donations.

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