Bay Meadows stewards said they are deliberating whether to take action against Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze following a hearing the morning of Aug. 25 into a riding incident that generated controversy.
Baze, North America's all-time leading rider who is closing in on 10,000 lifetime victories, was represented at the hearing by trainer and lawyer Brian Pitnick. They met for most of the morning with stewards Darrel McHargue, Dennis Nevin and Randy Winick, according to McHargue. The meeting was closed at the request of Pitnick.
McHargue, through a track publicist, said he could not estimate when a decision would be made and declined to discuss the case.
Pitnick, reached by phone, deferred comment while the matter is pending.
The California Horse Racing Board complaint against Baze is for misuse of whip, conduct detrimental to racing, and animal cruelty.
Imperial Eyes broke down near the wire as Baze hit him with a whip in the first race Aug. 23. The 3-5 favorite in the $8,000 maiden claiming event at one mile, Imperial Eyes had a seven-length lead mid-stretch but took a bad step near the 16th pole. After pulling up briefly, the 4-year-old gelding changed leads and resumed running. Baze used his whip approaching the wire as the horse broke down.
Imperial Eyes finished second in the race. He was later diagnosed with a fracture of his left front cannon bone and euthanized.
The evening of the incident, Baze said he believed Imperial Eyes went lame initially. But when the horse started running again, he thought he had misjudged what happened.
"I was trying to hold him together to the finish," he said.
Baze acknowledged using his whip. "We were in the shadow of the wire, and I did keep riding him to get him across the finish line," he said.
The 49-year-old jockey drew the support of horse's trainers, Steve and Art Sherman, who say Baze is blameless for what happened.