Arlington Park Barn Notes (5/7/10)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
BAZE BUSTING OUT ALL OVER AT ARLINGTON PARK
For the third straight racing day, we have a new leader in the jockey standings at Arlington Park, but this time it is a rider unfamiliar to many fans of Thoroughbred racing at Chicago’s northwest suburban oval.
Michael Baze, who has been based in Southern California for the last few years, moved to the local front – literally as well as figuratively – with a riding triple Thursday, taking the fifth on David Campbell’s Gilded Treasure for conditioner Christine Janks, the eighth aboard Cornett Racing’s Leavenworth for Arlington’s perennial leading trainer Wayne Catalano and the ninth astride Midwest Thoroughbreds’ Fresh Ice for trainer Roger Brueggermann.
“Fortunately, ‘Cat’ had enough confidence in me to talk me into coming to Chicago,” said Baze of Catalano while speaking Friday morning during training hours. “I thought I needed a little change from California. I did very well out there for several years – I won riding titles at Hollywood Park and Del Mar – but then I fractured some bones in my neck in a spill midway through the 2008 season and newer Southern California-based jockeys like Rafael Bejarano and Garrett Gomez picked up a lot of my business during the six weeks I was out. By the time I came back, a lot of the people I was riding for had moved on to other riders. I made the decision to come to Chicago and then won with six of my next 14 mounts during the last two weeks I was there.
“However, by that time I had committed to coming here,” Baze said. “Fortunately, I’ve gotten off to a good start so it looks like I did the right thing. I got to Chicago in time for the last two weeks of the Hawthorne meeting and won with four of my five mounts there, including one stakes for Todd Pletcher. Then, I won a race at Arlington on opening day for Cat (the eighth on Darrell and Evelyn Yates’ Paisano Creek) so fortunately things have started out really well for me. In fact, so far everything has been great.
“I like living in Chicago, and I really love riding at Arlington Park,” Baze said, “So I’m hoping I can ride a lot of horses for Cat and other trainers like Hugh Robertson, Christine Janks, Mike Stidham, Roger Brueggemann and Larry Rivelli. I think I’d like to keep riding at Arlington as my summer circuit for the next few years.”
Baze, 23, was born in Renton, Washington, home of the now-defunct Longacres. His second cousin is Russell Baze, Thoroughbred racing’s all-time leading jockey, his father Michael is a former jockey who retired some years ago, and another cousin is Tyler Baze, currently still on the Southern California circuit.
Including Thursday’s triple, Michael Baze has now ridden 771 winners in his career.
TRAINER RAFAEL I. FLORES SADDLES TWO WINNERS THURSDAY
Trainer Rafael I. Flores saddled Jose L. Gonzalez’ Bank Account, with Julio Felix up, to win Thursday’s opener and returned to the winner’s circle after the seventh with that same ownership’s Marikitten, with Felix Salgado in the irons.
“I’ve been training horses off and on for the last 11 years – as long as I had the right owners,” said Flores during training hours Friday morning when asked about his background. “I began my career in California but I’ve also trained in Florida, Kentucky and New York.
“My father was a groom for (the late Hall of Fame trainer) Charlie Whittingham,” Flores said. “I started hanging around Charlie’s barn when I was 8 years old even though my father didn’t want me to get in the business. Charlie always told my father, ‘This kid is going to be a horseman.’
“I had three winners at Hawthorne before I came to Arlington,” said Flores, 40, who was born right outside the gates of Santa Anita in Arcadia, California, “I’d like to mention that my old friend (Arlington-based trainer) Marco Salazar had a lot to do with my coming here. I’ve known him for a long time and when I started out whenever I had a question about training I knew I could ask him.
“Everybody told me how tough it would be trying to break in on the Chicago circuit,” Flores said, “but I’ve always thought that if you believe in yourself and have good help like I have, you can make it as long as you have good horses. You’re only as good as your horses.”
The fact that both of Flores’ winning jockeys Thursday had “Felix” as part of their names was just a coincidence, the trainer noted.
“Julio Felix and I have known each other for 20 years,” said Flores, “and over the years he’s ridden a lot of horses for me. Felix Salgado is just a kid I recently met through Marco, and he asked me to give the kid a chance.”
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