Baze Ready for First Derby Ride

Admittedly, it was a tougher-than-expected struggle for Tyler Baze once the 2000 Eclipse Award-winning apprentice jockey graduated to journeyman status December 12 of that year. But now 29 months later, the 20-year-old Baze is poised to begin the next phase of his career with his first Kentucky Derby (gr. I) ride aboard Indian Express.

"The first year after my apprentice we did really good, but then last year there was a little slump," Baze said. "Since then, though, things are going well. All my dreams are beginning to come true."

Baze was propelled to the Derby by a strong Santa Anita meet and the help of trainer Bob Baffert, who has been one of Baze's staunchest supporters throughout his career. Baze, who hails from the extended family of Racing Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze (his uncle) and jockey Gary Baze (his second cousin), got the call from Baffert for Indian Express's United States debut after Laffit Pincay Jr. was injured.
Pincay, a native of Panama, sent film of Indian Express winning both his starts in Panama to trainers on the Southern California circuit. Baffert purchased the son of Indian Charlie on behalf of Phil Chess.

Indian Express finished fourth in the San Pedro Stakes in his first start for Baffert, but then earned his way into the Kentucky Derby with a game second-place finish to Buddy Gill in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I).

"I don't know if Laffit told Bob to put me on, but t when he got hurt I got the call," said Baze, who finished eighth in the Santa Anita jockey standings with 41 wins. "Then after the San Pedro I talked to Bob and said he should run this horse long because he has such a long stride. I knew he would run good in the (Santa Anita Derby), but not that good."

Baze, who has never ridden at Churchill Downs, will make his first trip over the track during the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) undercard on Friday. He said he is remaining calm in the buildup to the Derby, but admitted things are likely to change when he gets a leg up for the Derby.

"Right now I'm just real excited, but I'm sure I'll be nervous there," said Baze, who earlier this year rode the rich Dubai World Cup program at Nad al Sheba for the first time. "I'm just going to go with the flow and do whatever Bob tells me to do."

Before the Santa Anita Derby, those instructions included not to take a hold of Indian Express, just let the horse run comfortably. Baze expects similar tactics in the Kentucky Derby.

"He doesn't really kick in, but he can last a long time," Baze said. "He just kept going (in the Santa Anita Derby). He was coming back at the end but just got a little bit unlucky."

Indian Express, who was bred in Utah by Highland Farm, won both his starts in Panama by 10 3/4-lengths.