Tyler Baze, among the top jockeys on the Southern California circuit, was scheduled to ride three horses Sunday in his first day as a regular at Oaklawn.
Baze, 36, will be represented by agent Joe Santos, who has booked mounts at the meet for David Cabrera, Israel Rodriguez and apprentice Luis Fuentes. Arkansas Racing Commission rules permit an agent to carry two journeymen riders and an apprentice. Santos said Rodriguez's last day as a regular is Thursday and he will ride this summer at Gulfstream Park. Cabrera rode Thursday before returning to his native Mexico because of a “family issue,” Santos said Sunday morning, adding the jockey's timetable for returning is unknown.
Baze is the seventh-leading rider at the Santa Anita winter/spring meet, but that venue has been in a state of flux after it was announced March 5 that racing was being suspended indefinitely because of poor weather and track conditions.
Santos said Oaklawn track announcer Vic Stauffer, Baze's former agent, was instrumental in getting the jockey to Hot Springs. The deal was closed, quickly, Friday night, Santos said.
“I guess Vic Stauffer was talking to him about coming over here because he was looking for a place to come,” Santos said. “Didn't have too much going on over there right now. It all happened in about five minutes. Just got a phone call. Vic gave me a head's up to call him.”
Santos said the plan is for Baze to ride at Oaklawn until the meeting ends May 4. He was scheduled to ride Knocks Big Thirst for trainer Lynn Chleborad in the fourth race, Summer's Indy in the sixth race for trainer Karl Broberg and Bolita Boyz for trainer Robertino Diodoro in the seventh race. Cabrera had been named on the first two horses. Baze is named to ride three horses Thursday and five Friday.
“Hoping to make it work out good,” Santos said. “The last time I saw Tyler Baze, interestingly enough, was 2005 or 2006. He had a party at his house during the Breeders' Cup and that's the only time I met him. I was about 8 or 9.”
Baze earned an Eclipse Award as the country's champion apprentice jockey of 2000 and entered Sunday with 2,605 victories and $115,877,627 in purse earnings in his North American career, according to Equibase, racing's official data gathering organization. He is a cousin of retired Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze.
Tyler Baze won the $150,000 Northern Spur Stakes for 3-year-olds in 2017 at Oaklawn with Cistron.
Joe Rocco Jr., who won 62 races as an Oaklawn regular in 2015-2017, rejoined the local colony Friday after previously being based this winter at Fair Grounds. Rocco said he plans to ride at Oaklawn until the meeting ends.
“I didn't want to go to Keeneland,” Rocco said. “It's kind of nice that they run until after the (Arkansas) Derby here. I probably should have come in December, but stayed at Fair Grounds chasing a couple of horses.”
Rocco is the brother-in-law of Jed Doro, Oaklawn's director of racing.
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