Acclaimed Jockey Michael Baze Dead from Cocaine Overdose in Kentucky

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michael baze cocaine overdose victimMichael Baze, 24, was found dead in his car on May 10 near the Churchill Downs stables in Louisville Kentucky. The toxicology report given by Jefferson County Deputy Coroner Jim Wesley on Friday, said that Baze died from multiple substance intoxication.

The Toxicology report stated that a significant amount of cocaine was in Baze’s system. There was also a significant amount of oxymorphone, which is a pain medication sold under the brand name of Opana.

Baze’s mother, Teri Gibson was troubled by the coroner’s findings, “Shocking because he was finally becoming happy…I honestly thought he was not doing that (cocaine) anymore.”

This is not the first time that Baze was caught with drugs. In last November Baze was arrested in a parking lot near downtown Louisville. According to the arrest warrant, detectives found an alleged small bag of cocaine in Baze’s pants pocket. The risk of sudden death from cocaine goes up exponentially when the drug is mixed with other substances.

During the week that Baze overdosed he was schedule to appear at a preliminary hearing. He was being charged for first-degree possession of cocaine, later he was going to ride that day at Churchill Downs.

When Baze started his career in California at the age of 16, in 2003, he was mentored by hall-of-fame rider Mike Smith. Smith said that they would discuss Baze’s difficulty in falling asleep. In 2008 Baze suffered a neck fracture that slowed down his career a little. I’m sure that the doctor’s prescription pain medication did not help his substance abuse problem.

Smith said “He probably just took all that stuff and just wanted to sleep…Hopefully, something like that will pick up some of the younger riders’ heads and they know what can happen.”

In Baze’s short nine-year career he accomplished 918 first-place wins, 7,000 starts and grossed more than $32 million. In 2007, at the age of 20 he was the youngest to win the spring-summer meet at Hollywood Park, and won the meet title in Del Mar that year along with many others.
Baze’s extraordinary talent to ride a horse was passed down through generations of professional jockeys.  His father is retired jockey Mike Baze and his uncle who is also a jockey Gary Baze. His cousin, Russell Baze is an all-time leading rider and his other cousin Tyler Baze is a known rider in California.

Baze rode briefly at Churchill, but John Asher a spokesman for Churchill Downs said, “(he) possessed enormous potential to be a true star in our sport.” When Asher heard the report he said, “The sudden passing of this talented young rider even more senseless and tragic.”

This past Thursday loved ones held a memorial at Hollywood Park where Baze got his start. His family remembered Baze for his kindness and generosity as he brought doughnuts for the groomers in the morning and donated toys to the backstretch workers families.

Baze’s mother Gibson also hopes that her son’s overdose enlightens individuals that like to mix prescription drugs with illicit drugs (or alcohol). Gibson said, “I hope other young riders or kids think about it a little harder.”

– Cesar V