11/05/2007 12:00AM

Michael Baze confident for Hollywood

EmailARCADIA, Calif. - After winning riding titles at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting and at Del Mar, Michael Baze finished seventh in the standings at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting this fall.

Missing six days of riding because of suspension and traveling briefly to the Breeders' Cup at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27 kept him out of contention for a title that went to his cousin, Tyler Baze.

At the Hollywood Park meeting that begins Wednesday, Michael Baze is determined to be the Baze at the top of the standings.

"I'm not looking forward to the drive, but I'm looking forward to the races," he said, referring to the horrid crosstown commute.

Baze was philosophical about not winning the riding title at Oak Tree because of the early-season suspension.

"Even if I didn't have a suspension, things go up and down," he said. "There is no reason to be discouraged."

Baze's career took off earlier this year when he teamed with agent Nick Cosato. He won his first riding title in Southern California at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting.

But during Del Mar, he received two three-day suspensions that kept him sidelined during the first two weeks of the Oak Tree meeting.

"Between that and traveling, it was tough to catch up," he said.

At the Hollywood Park meeting, Baze is looking forward to riding Romance Is Diane, winner of the California Cup Matron at Oak Tree on Saturday. She may run in the Bayakoa Handicap on Dec. 1.

The jockeys' room in Southern California may become more competitive in the near future. Aside from a resurgent Tyler Baze, jockey Patrick Valenzuela is hoping to return to riding in California next week, Garrett Gomez has returned from the East Coast for the winter, and Kentucky-based jockeys Rafael Bejarano and Julien Leparoux are expected to begin riding here in late November. Also, Victor Espinoza and Joe Talamo gain enough mounts on a regular basis to contend for a title.

Of all of those riders, Michael Baze, 20, has the utmost respect for Gomez, who leads the nation's riders in earnings this year.

"He takes business from everybody," Baze said.

Baze expects to play a major role at the meeting. Asked for a prediction, he said, "Hopefully, I'll finish in the top five."

Before Del Mar, Baze said he wanted to be in the top three and wound up winning the title. Reminded of that Sunday, Baze said, "I'd rather be No. 1. You go for No. 1."

Lava Man scheduled for rest

Lava Man, sixth in Saturday's California Cup Classic, will be turned out for approximately 60 days, trainer Doug O'Neill said.

Owned by the Kenly family's STD Racing and Jason Wood, Lava Man will undergo a nuclear scan test this week before being shipped out of O'Neill's Hollywood Park stable.

"We'll do all the proper diagnostics," O'Neill said. "If everything looks like I expect it to, he'll get away from the stress of everyday track life."

Lava Man's loss in the Cal Cup Classic, a race won by Bold Chieftain, was his third consecutive, preceded by sixth-place finishes in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August and the Oak Tree Mile at Santa Anita last month. Earlier this year, Lava Man won the Santa Anita Handicap for the second consecutive year and the Hollywood Gold Cup for the third straight year.

The layoff will jeopardize Lava Man's chances of starting in the Santa Anita Handicap in March. Claimed for $50,000 in August 2004, Lava Man has won 17 of 43 starts and $5,214,706.

"I think both of the owners are not expecting anything," O'Neill said, referring to a 2008 campaign. "When and if he runs again, that will be awesome."

O'Neill said he does not think that Lava Man will be retired.

"He doesn't seem like a retired horse," he said. "We're disappointed he didn't win. We thought he was a lock" on Saturday.

Switzerland, 'Romance' set records

Two track records were set during Saturday's California Cup program. Switzerland ran six furlongs in 1:07.34 to win the Starter Sprint Handicap. Romance Is Diane ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.38.

The Santa Anita Cushion Track synthetic surface produced fast times through the Oak Tree meeting. The course was installed at a cost of $10 million during the summer.

Both Switzerland and Romance Is Diane are being pointed for stakes at the Hollywood Park fall meeting.

Switzerland will be considered for the $100,000 On Trust Handicap for statebreds at 7 1/2 furlongs on Dec.o22, trainer Mike Machowsky said.

A 4-year-old gelding claimed for $40,000 by a partnership on Sept. 5, Switzerland won the Starter Sprint Handicap by 2 1/4 lengths in his 27th career start.

"There are always claiming horses that come around at some point, and I hope he goes in that direction," Machowsky said. "It's pretty exciting."

Romance Is Diane, winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet and California Cup Juvenile Fillies in 2006, may start in the $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap on Dec. 1, trainer Mike Mitchell said.

Mitchell said there is a chance that Romance Is Diane will be retired and bred this winter. She has won 4 of 10 starts and $507,660 for owner Senji Nishimura.

Pick six pays out to 54 winners

The pick six returned $34,220 to 54 ticket holders on Sunday's closing day of the Oak Tree meeting, a program that began with a pick-six carryover of $590,499.

Bettors added $2,270,626 on Sunday, a card that featured a mandatory pick-six payout because of the end of the meeting.

The winners of Sunday's pick-six races were Indian Sun ($4.20), French Souvenir ($8.80), Characteristic ($17.80), Naissance Royale ($6.20), Sixcess ($9.40), and Wing Walker ($20.80).

* Exercise rider Jenny Jonsson was presented with a check for $5,000 from the Oak Tree Racing Association in the winner's circle between races on Sunday to offset medical costs associated with an injury suffered during the Del Mar meeting.