10/19/2013 5:05PM

Tyler Baze should not be reinstated, CHRB investigator tells Santa Anita stewards

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Benoit & Associates
Tyler Baze was jailed for five days during the summer for driving under the influence.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Suspended jockey Tyler Baze, who has not ridden since failing a sobriety test at Betfair Hollywood Park in June, should not have his license reinstated until October 2014 at the earliest, a California Horse Racing Board investigator told Santa Anita stewards on Saturday.

The investigator cited several alcohol-related incidents in the past 18 months involving Baze as the reason for his recommendation, including an arrest for driving under the influence in Northern California in late July.

Baze met with track stewards in an 80-minute hearing at Santa Anita in an effort to regain his jockey license. The stewards did not act on Baze’s request for reinstatement on Saturday, saying they would issue a decision next week, according to steward Scott Chaney, who presided over the case.

The stewards have a wide array of options, ranging from adopting the racing board investigator’s recommendation, to reinstating Baze under a conditional license that would certainly require extensive testing, to requiring the jockey to undergo further counseling before being considered for reinstatement.

During the hearing, racing board investigator Rick Amieva said Baze was unfit for reinstatement because he was involved in a traffic accident and jailed for five days for driving under the influence and with a suspended license, in Santa Rosa, Calif., in late July. Baze, who said he was visiting family in the area at the time, had a blood alcohol level of .354, more than four times the California legal limit of .08, Amieva said. According to a California Highway Patrol document presented to the stewards, Baze was tested at a level of .349 six minutes after the initial test.

Amieva described such a blood alcohol level as being so severe that a person “has little comprehension of where you are, and you may pass out.”

In addition, Amieva cited four instances in April and May of 2012 in which Baze was arrested for a variety of infractions in Arcadia and Monrovia, Calif., including driving under the influence, violating a restraining order, driving under a suspended sentence, and public intoxication. Santa Anita Park is located in Arcadia. Baze resides in Monrovia, directly east of Arcadia.

Baze’s attorney, Michael Oddenino, argued that the racing board investigator’s recommendation was “draconian in nature."

"I don’t think it’s fair to Tyler to take that kind of stance against Tyler,” Oddenino said.

Baze was suspended for four months on July 7, with the penalty retroactive to June 13, for failing the sobriety test at Hollywood Park, a violation of a provisional license he signed with the racing board in 2012.

When Baze was suspended in July, the terms of his reinstatement included attending a 60-day in-house residency rehabilitation program; undergoing evaluation with the Winner’s Foundation, which aids people in racing with substance abuse problems; complying with the terms of a testing agreement with the racing board; and attending a fitness hearing with the stewards. The meeting on Saturday was the fitness hearing.

The suspension issued in July was the second for Baze in a two-year period. He was suspended at Del Mar in August 2011 for failing to take a Breathalyzer test. The terms of that suspension required a 30-day residency rehabilitation program. Baze did not immediately comply with those terms and was reinstated under a conditional license in October 2012.

Saturday, Amieva argued that Baze was in violation of the terms of his 2012 conditional license with the racing board when he failed to notify the racing board that he had been arrested in July.

Oddenino, in his closing statement to the stewards, asked for Baze to be reinstated under a conditional license and said that Baze would adhere to testing terms set forth by the stewards.

Baze, who turned 31 on Saturday, completed his 60-day residency rehabilitation at the Grandview Foundation in Pasadena, Calif., from Aug. 9 to Oct. 8. He then spent a week in the Seattle area, exercising horses at the Pegasus Training Center, before returning to California last week. Baze’s suspension ended on Oct. 13.

In comments to the stewards, Baze said that he has been sober for 81 days. Using strong language, he said he was “scared” by the jail experience.

“I have never spent time in jail,” he said. “I definitely don’t want to go back there. I got into rehab as soon as I could.”

Chaney, who heard the case with Kim Sawyer and Tom Ward, said it seemed suspicious that Baze waited a month after the July 7 ruling to begin his residency rehabilitation.

“He decided he could drink until the last day he could,” Chaney said, addressing Oddenino and Baze.

In his opening comments to the stewards, Oddenino said that “Tyler is an alcoholic” and that being sent to jail had a profound effect on him.

“It was a new experience for Tyler and I think it will prove to be a valuable experience for him,” Oddenino.

At the time of his suspension last summer, Baze was in the midst of an excellent 2013 season. On June 13, he was tied for the lead in the jockey standings of the spring-summer meeting at Hollywood Park.

Baze is best known for winning the Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding apprentice jockey of 2000.

Bob Fletcher of the Winner’s Foundation said at the end of Saturday’s hearing that he is hopeful that Baze can be reinstated.

“There are a lot of components in recovery and one of them is employment,” he said. “We’d like to have Tyler back in the field. It’s easier to work with a member of the horse racing industry if they’re part of it. His employment as a jockey or exercise rider will be key in the overall success of his ability to make a recovery.”