Baze, Dr. Park Put It in Drive
Horse racing: Teenage jockey takes a fall at Del Mar opener, then guides his horse to blazing victory in division of Oceanside Stakes.
July 19, 2001
by Bill Christine
Los Angeles Times
DEL MAR -- Early in the day, Del Mar's renovated turf course was the cushion for a few heavy bounces from jockey Tyler Baze. By twilight, though, the 18-year-old rider got comfortable on the new greensward at the seaside track, riding Dr. Park to a near-record victory in the second division of the opening-day Oceanside Stakes.
Coming from off the pace Wednesday, Dr. Park not only won by two lengths, but he also ran a mile in 1:34 2/5, missing the Oceanside record by a fifth of a second. Fastest time ever for Del Mar's traditional season-opening stake was 1:34 1/5, run by Prince Bobby B. in 1986, only four years after Baze was born.
In the second race of the day, run when many in the crowd of 33,526 were still arriving, Baze's mount, Walts Wharf, clipped the heels of a horse ridden by Brice Blanc and the riders went down. Blanc, who was riding Gin Running, was sent to a hospital for precautionary X-rays and later his agent, Corey Black, reported that the rider had suffered painful chest and knee bruises. Neither horse was injured. There was something for the young and the old in Del Mar's 62nd opener. One race after Baze's win aboard Dr. Park, Laffit Pincay rode Daring General to victory. That was the 54-year-old Pincay's third winner of the day, all of them for trainer Bill Spawr. A year ago, Spawr, one of the few trainers to stick by the Hall of Fame rider during some lean times, won 15 races here, 13 with Pincay.
The first half of the Oceanside went to a longshot, Sigfreto, who prevailed by two lengths at 39-1 for his first victory since trainer Doug Peterson bought him in May for co-owner Richard O'Neill for $125,000. Bettors were smelling a pick-six carryover after Sigfreto's shocker, but there was still one winning ticket, worth more than $151,000.
Baze, voted last year's Eclipse award for top apprentice, has ridden Dr. Park throughout his career. In April, they dead-heated with Media Mogul for the victory in the Will Rogers Stakes at Hollywood Park, then in May the colt was second at Lone Star Park.
"We caught soft turf in Texas," trainer John Sadler said. "It was almost like mud and my horse couldn't handle it. He's a very nice horse. I think he's one of the top 3-year-olds on turf in the country."
Baze won 27 races here last year, finishing fifth in the standings, but the Oceanside was his first stakes victory at Del Mar.
"I had to wait for room," he said of Dr. Park's trip, "but it worked out OK. Once he got clear, he really showed a great turn of foot."
Dr. Park, the favorite, paid $6.40 for his fourth victory in seven starts. Euribor finished second, one length better than Our Main Man.
"This was his first hard race [since coming to the U.S.]," said Mike Smith, Euribor's rider. "Those other two races he was way back and didn't get into it. Today he was running and kicked hard. He just got beat at the end. He'll get a lot out of this race and should move up."
Like Dr. Park, Sigfreto was a late-running winner. He was ridden by Matt Garcia, who got his first try with Peterson's horse when they finished fourth last month in the Ascot Handicap at Bay Meadows.
"What a nice kick this horse had," Garcia said. "I was sitting there behind a wall of horses, but when I asked him, I received."
Sigfreto caught Peterson's attention in May when he was shipped in for the Cinema Handicap. The horse was stabled in the back of Peterson's barn at Hollywood Park, and after a troubled fifth in the stake, the trainer put together a deal with John Nowak, Sigfreto's owner-trainer.
"The horse has put on a lot of weight and has been training good," Peterson said. "I had a bet on him. It's like buying insurance. The purse [$52,260] wasn't bad, either."
Sea To See finished second, half a length better than Mister Approval, the 8-5 favorite. Sigfreto's time was 1:35 4/5.
"I was all dressed up and had nowhere to go," said Gary Stevens, who rode Mister Approval, an Italian import making his second U.S. start. "I was trapped all the way around. I think I should be having my picture taken. He's a nice horse."
Peterson said that Sigfreto would aim for the $300,000 Del Mar Derby, at 1 1/8 miles, on Sept. 3.
"This horse doesn't have a lot of pedigree, but he loves to run," Peterson said. "He was too big of a price [44-1] when he ran in the Cinema, and he shouldn't have been the price he was today, either."