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Apprentice Tyler Baze Soars To Top Of Hollywood Park Charts

by Vince Bruun
Hollywood Park Barn Notes

Last Halloween, trainer John Sadler gave apprentice Tyler Baze a leg up on the maiden Fleeting Wonder at Santa Anita Park.

Baze, just 16 at the time, responded with the first winning ride of his career, guiding the Washington-bred filly to a one-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile event.

Baze thus had a taste of riding in the big leagues. But he is the first to admit he lacked the experience to ride regularly in Southern California.

Said Sadler: "We sent Tyler down to the minors to get a little seasoning. Now, he's a polished act."

Following a four-month stint at Turf Paradise, where he won 103 races and ranked third in the standings, Baze has returned to Southern California. He's won six races during the first seven days of Hollywood Park's Spring/Summer Meeting and is the early favorite to win the Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding Apprentice Jockey.

"This is awesome, something I've always dreamed of," Baze said. Five of the victories have come on horses trained by Sadler, who said Baze has a solid foundation in the sport.

"He's done it the right way," Sadler said. "He started from the bottom up, cleaning stalls and walking hots. He knows horses."

Baze comes from a family steeped in racing. His uncle, Gary Baze, was the all-time leading jockey at defunct Longacres, and his second cousin, Russell Baze, is a Hall of Famer and the perennial leading rider in Northern California.

"I've been around the track my whole life," Baze said. "This is what I've always wanted to do, ride horses. John has really helped me to get started here. I came down here last summer and I must have gotten on about five or six hundred horses in the morning for John. He said he'd make it up to me, and he has."

"Tyler's a throwback," Sadler said. "He calls people "sir" and "maam" and is very respectful. He's a terrific, hard-working kid, and you get the (apprentice) weight break to boot."

Baze tacks 110 pounds and is fearful that he may eventually outgrow his profession. For now, he said the goal is to work hard, study the veterans in the jockeys' room and be an eager beaver in the morning.

"Everybody has their own style on a horse, but I just go with the flow," he said. "I'm sure I have my own, but I'm keeping an eye on the leading riders, watching what they do, and hopefully learn a little bit from them. I'll watch Laffit (Pincay) and see how he switches sticks from hand-to-hand, and maybe learn something from that. I can learn from them, but it's up to me to go out and win the race. Nobody can help me out there."

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