Updated on 04/29/2011 3:33PM

Hollywood Park: Tyler Baze wins first race of comeback in California

Email
BENOIT PHOTO
Tyler Baze, sidelined since sustaining severe facial injuries last summer at Del Mar, wins his first race at Hollywood Park on

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Nine months after being sidelined by facial injuries sustained in a freak pre-race accident at Del Mar, jockey Tyler Baze rode the 1,775th winner of his award-winning career in Thursday’s sixth race at Hollywood Park.

Guiding Joyful Success to an easy 3 1/4-victory in a $16,000 claimer for sprinters, Baze celebrated with a few right-handed fist pumps. A few minutes later, after leaving the winner’s circle, Baze summed up his thoughts surrounding his comeback.

“Mission accomplished,” Baze said. “I got it done. Now there is no monkey on my back.”

Baze, 28, suffered facial injuries last summer when a 2-year-old he was preparing to ride threw its head back in the moments before a race and violently struck the rider in the face. Initially, surgery was conducted to stabilize bones near his eye. The comeback was further postponed by bouts of double vision.

The winner of the Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding apprentice jockey of 2000, Baze received doctor’s clearance to resume riding last month and spent several weeks regaining fitness by working horses for trainer friends at Turf Paradise in Phoenix. He rode there on Monday and Wednesday and had his first day at Hollywood Park on Thursday.

Baze had three mounts on Thursday. He was scheduled to ride at Hollywood Park on Friday and Turf Paradise on Saturday and has two mounts at Hollywood Park on Sunday, including Dawnie Mach in the $70,000 Time to Leave Stakes.

He said fitness is not an issue. “I’ve been getting on horses for a month, so I’m fit to ride,” he said. “But riding is different.”

Joyful Success was trained by Peter Miller; the gelding was claimed on Thursday. Baze was injured on a Miller-trained horse last summer and the two shared a moment before Joyful Success was taken into the winner’s circle.

“I was so happy for him,” Miller said a few minutes later. “It’s good to have him back.”