10/16/2012 1:07PM

Santa Anita: Tyler Baze gaining mounts, continues to look forward

Benoit & Associates
Tyler Baze got the first stakes win of his comeback aboard Lucky Primo in last Saturday's $175,000 California Cup Classic.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Tyler Baze had ridden the fifth winner of his 9-day-old comeback Sunday at Santa Anita when he was met by his agent, Craig O’Bryan, on the walk from the winner’s circle to the jockeys’ room.

After the obligatory congratulations, O’Bryan gave Baze a reminder of his appointments for Monday morning, which stables he needed to see for workouts. It would be a busy one, which is what Baze wanted to hear.

Tyler Baze is making up for lost time.

“I’m enjoying the mornings the last couple of days,” he said. “I’m getting on a lot of nice horses. It’s a great thrill to be on them. Knock on wood, I’ll get to ride them.”

Baze, who turns 30 on Friday, returned from a 13-month suspension on Oct. 5 for failing to take a Breathalyzer test at Del Mar in September 2011. He was reinstated in September and worked horses for two weeks before he resumed riding.

He won with his second mount and recorded his first stakes win last Saturday, when Lucky Primo won the $175,000 California Cup Classic. Gaining mounts in the Breeders’ Cup races on Nov. 2-3 is his next objective.

Tuesday, trainer Jeff Mullins, a longtime supporter of Baze’s, said that he plans to start Dry Summer and Gabriel Charles in the BC Juvenile Turf and that Baze is likely to ride one of them, if they make the race.

Earlier this year, that would have seemed unlikely for Baze. As part of his reinstatement, he was required to attend a 30-day in-house treatment for alcohol dependency. He is currently residing in such a facility in nearby Pasadena for a few more weeks, he said, a point he quickly downplayed Sunday.

“All that is behind me,” he said. “It doesn’t need to be talked about.”

He would prefer the focus was on his riding. Baze started the current autumn meeting a week after it started, but says he can be in the top five in the standings at Betfair Hollywood Park in November and December.

“I believe I can,” he said Sunday. “Business will pick up. I rode six in a row today. I’ve got my main trainers that have supported me through thick and thin since I started riding.”

Trainer Peter Miller gave Baze the mount on A Toast To You, who won Sunday.

“I’ve always liked Tyler,” Miller said. “I was looking for a live mount for him. He’s a great guy, very talented, and a great rider. He’s riding like he has everything together.”

The nation’s champion apprentice of 2000, Baze has won 1,814 races. Aside from the recent suspension, he missed eight months of riding from July 2010 to April 2011 after suffering an eye injury when a horse reared back and struck him behind the gate at Del Mar.

Those absences, and the tragedy of the death of his cousin, jockey Michael Baze, from a drug overdose in June 2011, led some to question whether he would ride again.

“It’s good to see him back and trying to get his life back,” Mullins said. “There were times when you thought he might not.”

Mullins did not hesitate to support Baze when he returned to working horses last month. Mullins says Baze’s best asset is his sense around horses, in the mornings and during races.

“Tyler is not only a jockey but he’s a horseman,” Mullins said. “He loves horses. I think that’s a big key. A lot of the guys learn how to ride from a jockey’s school. They’re not brought up around horses into a racing family.

“It gives Tyler an edge. In the mornings, there is no one better. He’s a good work rider, and you don’t have to draw him a picture.”

The Cal Cup Classic is Baze’s richest win this month. Lucky Primo has a poignant name for the rider. When Tyler and Michael Baze were riding together, he said they would leave the room by saying, “Good luck, Primo,” which is Spanish for cousin.

That crossed Tyler Baze’s mind before the Cal Cup Classic.

“I think he was there,” he said of his late cousin. “I said a little prayer.”