Tyler Baze Continues To Amaze As Journeyman Rider
March 6, 2001
by Ed Golden
The Running Horse
When it comes to populous families, there are more Bazes than there are Gabors and Wallendas.
Most of the Bazes earn their living from horse racing, and the latest to do so is 18-year-old riding sensation Tyler, who last year became the first Southern California-based jockey to win an Eclipse Award as the nationís top apprentice in more than a quarter of a century.
Steve Valdez was the last, in 1973. He had ballooned to 207 pounds before making a comeback several years ago. Like Valdez, Baze could face a battle with the scales down the road, but for now, riding without the five-pound apprentice or "bug" allowance has not impeded his success.
Last year, Baze won 246 races and more than $14.1 million in purse money. He lost the "bug" three months ago but he still rides with the eye of the tiger. In fact, heís riding better than ever. He has 31 wins at Santa Anita to rank fifth in the standings.
"Since he lost the weight allowance, heís been able to tack about four or five more pounds and thatís made him stronger," says trainer Eric Kruljac, who hooked up with Baze at Turf Paradise in Phoenix.
"I think I saw him ride once at Santa Anita before he went to Turf Paradise," Kruljac said. "I just had him work some horses at the beginning of Turfway when he got there. I used the bug rider over there periodically but I rarely used it at Santa Anita before I started to use Tyler.
"Heís had so much advice and taken it so well from (John) Sadler and (Bob) Baffert the last three or four months, that heís just picked up where he left off as an apprentice. Heís twice the rider he was before he lost the bug. And almost every other rider goes the other way. When they lose the bug, they lose confidence and lose most of their live mounts, but this kidís just picked it up.
"Heís been wonderful to deal with. Every time he comes out to get on a horse, thereís that electric enthusiasm thatís missing in a lot of sports, not just in our sport, but in a lot of sports these days. Heís a very level-headed kid and I think that goes back to his parents. Success hasnít gone to his head, at least so far."
Sadler, too, says Baze is stronger since he lost the "bug" because he can be more lenient on his diet.
"Heís able to eat one meal a day now," said Sadler, a Baze booster from the get-go. "He still does very light (tacks 111 pounds) but heís able to eat a little bit. I think heís even stronger. Another thing you have to remember about a kid his age, at 18, heís still a work in progress. Heís getting better by the day. The improvement curve is ongoing."
Baze has even earned praise from his peers.
"Heís very polished for as young as he is," says fellow rider Garrett Gomez. "He has a bright future. The fact that he comes from a racing family helped him. I grew up in racing and learned from people I was around. It helps to have that kind of background."
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