Jockey Tyler Baze, sidelined since August 2011 due to substance abuse problems, earned his first stakes victory since returning to action a week ago, guiding Lucky Primo to victory in the $175,000 Lava Man California Cup Classic Oct. 13 at Santa Anita Park (VIDEO).
Lucky Primo defeated 40-1 shot Got Even by a half-length under urging from Baze to provide trainer Joshua Litt with the victory. Litt bred the winner, a 6-year-old son of Atticus out of the winning Personal Flag mare Live Free Or Die, with Jason Litt, Joshua's brother; and Dennis O'Neill. Jason Litt and J B K Stable are the winning owners.
John Scott, the 7-5 favorite in the field of seven, finished third, flattening out late to come home 1 1/4 lengths behind the winner.
Baze had been working horses since he was reinstated by stewards at Los Alamitos late last month. Returning to race riding Oct. 5, he has four wins and three seconds from 25 mounts.
The 29-year-old rider, the Eclipse Award winner as the nation's outstanding apprentice rider in 2000, had been undergoing residency treatment for alcoholism at a clinic in Pasadena, Calif. He has a conditional license allowing him to ride that requires frequent drug and alcohol testing, among other requirements, according to Los Alamitos stewards.
"Lucky Primo, I love that name," Baze said. "At this stage of my career I'm definitely appreciating things more, especially the shots everybody's giving me right now. I've got a whole lot of live horses that people have been putting me on and it's just a blessing."
Second in last year's Cal Cup Classic to Norvsky, Lucky Primo has won two of three starts in 2012. He was timed in 1:42.05 winning this year's Classic.
Baze had Lucky Primo forwardly placed from the start, tracking pacesetter Got Even in second as they clipped off even fractions of :23.97, :47.59, and 1:11.47. Lucky Primo bid alongside the leader rounding the far turn and took a narrow lead into the stretch. The front-runners battled through the stretch as John Scott loomed a threat, and Lucky Primo gamely prevailed under a drive from Baze.
Lucky Primo was coming off a fourth-place effort in an optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles on turf Aug. 30 at Del Mar. He was making just his third start on dirt, winning for the first time. His overall record stands at 6-3-3 in 16 starts with earnings of $437,616.
"He trains on synthetic over at Hollywood (Cushion Track), but he's run on this dirt course last year a couple times," Litt noted. "He ran good. Once off a long layoff he ran a really good third. He handles everything, pretty much. I think he's probably best on grass but he handles anything."
Sent off as the fourth choice, Lucky Primo carried 117 pounds and paid $11.80, $7.80, and $4.60. He keyed a $270.40 exacta with the big outsider Got Even, who returned $29.60 and $9.80. John Scott, who carried co-high weight of 124 pounds, paid $3.60.
Earlier on the card, Monument won the $250,000 Bob Benoit California Cup Juvenile to kick off the series of six stakes that comprised this year's Cal Cup. Martin Garcia was aboard the 5-1 shot for owner/breeder Lee and Susan Searing's C R K Stable and trainer John Sadler. The son of Cindago—Grant Marty a Wish, by Beautiful Crown, was timed in 1:44.84 for 1 1/16 miles (VIDEO) .
Monument ($12) has two wins and two seconds from four starts. Ballard Ruler ran second with Star Rocker third.
The first division of the $100,000 John Deere Cal Cup Distaff went to Pam Ziebarth's 4-year-old homebred Tiz Flirtatious, a daughter of Tizbud--Masquerade Belle, by Victory Gallop. Joel Rosario was the winning rider for trainer Marty Jones (VIDEO) .
Tiz Flirtatious ($9.20) posted a 1 3/4-length win as the 7-2 favorite in the field of 11, completing about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course in 1:11.70. Best Present Ever was second with Unusual Hottie third.
The second division of the Cal Cup Distaff was won by 9-1 shot Bella Viaggia, ridden by Joe Talamo for trainer Mike Puype and owner SLO Racing Stable (VIDEO). The 3-year-old daughter of Good Journey --Miss Del Mar, by American Chance, was bred by Leatherman Racing.
Bella Viaggia ($21.40) won by two lengths over Missdealornodeal in a time of 1:12.02 on the hillside course with Cayanna third. Sugarinthemorning, the 13-10 favorite in a field of nine, finished seventh.
Fast-closing Maui Mark, ridden by Garett Gomez at odds of 8-1, won the $100,000 Don Valpredo California Cup Sprint by a half-length over Ain't No Other (VIDEO) . Obsess finished third while 8-5 pick Derby Gold was seventh.
Maui Mark ($19) ran the six furlongs in 1:09.03 to register his 10th career win from 26 starts. Bob Hess Jr. trains the 7-year-old son of Unusual Heat--Dalymount, by Man From Eldorado, for owners Michael Carter and Charles Galea.
In the nightcap, the $250,000 Keith E. Card Cal Cup Juvenile Fillies, 2-1 favorite Tilde outfought Doinghardtimeagain by a half-length while running the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:45.56 (VIDEO). Cotton's Point finished third.
Rafael Bejarano rode Tilde ($6.20) to her third consecutive stakes win for owner, breeder, and trainer Mike Harrington. Tilde is a daughter of Swiss Yodeler--Self Taught, by Cee's Tizzy.