12/07/2013 4:42PM

Tyler Baze talks to stewards, awaits ruling on regaining jockey's license

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Benoit & Associates
Recovering alcoholic Tyler Baze says he is broke and needs to resume working.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Jockey Tyler Baze, who has not ridden since June because of an alcohol-related suspension, moved closer to reinstatement after discussing the terms of his current rehabilitation with track stewards on Saturday.

Steward Scott Chaney presided over the meeting and indicated that despite a recent relapse of alcoholism by the jockey that he would vote to grant Baze a license to resume riding in the near future. Chaney said that he and fellow stewards Kim Sawyer and Tom Ward would issue a ruling on Baze’s case “in coming days.”

“I think it’s time to get your license back, but I’m just one vote,” Chaney said.

At the same, Chaney told Baze that another alcohol-related violation would be the end of his riding career in California.

“I can imagine that if you slip up, you’ll never have a license in California again, especially if I’m a steward,” Chaney said.

Baze has not ridden since June 13 when he failed a sobriety test at Betfair Hollywood Park. In July, he was suspended four months, retroactive to June 13, and ordered to undergo a 60-day in-house rehabilitation; undergo evaluation with the Winner’s Foundation, which aids people in California horse racing with substance abuse issues; comply with the terms of a testing agreement with the California Horse Racing Board; and attend a fitness-for-license hearing with the stewards.

In late July, Baze was involved in a traffic accident in Santa Rosa and was jailed for five days for driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license. Baze had a blood-alcohol level of 0.354 percent, more than four times the California legal limit of 0.08, according to California Highway Patrol records.

Baze began his 60-day residency program shortly after that arrest, competing the term in early October. 

At a fitness hearing before Chaney, Sawyer, and Ward at Santa Anita on Oct. 19, the stewards were told that Baze had not undergone an evaluation with the Winner’s Foundation. The evaluation took place in November, at which time Bob Fletcher, the executive director of the organization, required Baze to commit to a two-year contract for rehabilitation.

The contract requires Baze to live in a sober living house for at least a year, attend at least five 12-step programs weekly, abstain from alcohol, work with a sponsor assigned by the Winner’s Foundation, relinquish use of his old cell phone and use one in which the Winner’s Foundation controls with whom he speaks. In addition, Baze carries a field breathalyzer device that allows a monitoring company to test him at their discretion.

“He needed structure in his life,” Fletcher said. “We’ll give it to him. He’s an alcoholic. If he drinks again, he will not be a jockey, he’ll be a prison inmate because that is the order from the court.”

While Baze has worked with the Winner’s Foundation in recent weeks, he told the stewards that he had a drink as recently as Nov. 20, and immediately sought assistance from the Winner’s Foundation and other members of his support group.

“I had a slip,” Baze said. “I talked to Bob about it and that was it. I messed up.”

Baze said he began living in the sober living house in early November. He is not eligible to drive until late in 2014, and said that he rides a bike to some appointments or asks for rides. He said he attends as many as eight to 10 meetings a week to fill the time.

“I do what Bob tells me to do,” he said.

Baze also stated that he needs to return to riding because of a lack of income, telling the stewards that the Winner’s Foundation is paying for his remote testing breathalyzer program and his rent at the sober living house.

“Frankly, I’m broke and I need to go to work,” Baze said. “This is the only thing I know how to do.”

Fletcher asked the stewards to reinstate Baze before the conclusion of the current Hollywood Park meeting on Dec. 22, the final day of live racing in track history.

The July suspension was the second for Baze in two years. Baze, 31, was suspended at Del Mar in August 2011 for failing to take a breath 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.

At the time of his suspension earlier this year, Baze was in the midst of an excellent 2013 season. On June 13, he was tied for the lead in the jockey standings at 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.