10/13/2012 9:12PM

Santa Anita: Newly reinstated Baze takes California Cup Classic aboard Lucky Primo

Tyler Baze urges Lucky Primo to overtake Got Even in the California Cup Classic.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Just eight days after returning from an absence of more than a year, jockey Tyler Baze found himself winning one of the biggest California Cup races of the day Saturday at Santa Anita when he teamed with Lucky Primo to score a mild upset in the $175,000 Classic.

Baze perfectly placed Lucky Primo outside of 40-1 longshot Got Even during the early going, and while Got Even proved a surprisingly stubborn foe down the stretch, Lucky Primo ($11.80) out-finished him by a half-length to earn the victory in 1:42.05 for 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track.

John Scott, the 7-5 favorite, was another three-quarters of a length back in the field of seven.

Baze recently was reinstated by the stewards at Los Alamitos, representing the California Horse Racing Board, after serving a suspension and finally completing a mandated program for substance abuse, all tracing back to an incident in the summer of 2011 at Del Mar when Baze went AWOL after failing to take a Breathalyzer test.

Asked if he appreciates what he has recovered, Baze said, “Definitely.”

“I appreciate the shots everyone’s giving me,” he said. “It’s special.”

Baze looks, and acts, far more mature than he did before his troubles. He answered post-race questions from reporters patiently and with an even demeanor, smiling the whole time, the smile real, not forced.

“I’m getting better. I’m working hard,” he said. “I’m working hard for what I’m getting, that’s for sure.”

Lucky Primo, 6, is an oft-injured gelding who has been expertly handled by Joshua Litt, who trains Lucky Primo for his brother, Jason, and JBK Stable. This was only the 16th career start for Lucky Primo, who won the Cal Cup Juvenile four years ago. Saturday’s race was only his third start this year since returning from a layoff of more than eight months. He most recently had finished fourth after a traffic-filled trip in a money-allowance at Del Mar on Aug. 30.

“He’s a big, huge horse,” Litt said. “He’s always had soundness issues. We strategize to make these kinds of races.”