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  • Michael Baze | Cocaine & Oxymorphone Overdose Death

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    Michael Baze | Cocaine & Oxymorphone Overdose Death

    While people of all ages struggle with drug and alcohol abuse, adolescents and young adults tend to be at the greatest risk.

    This was the case with jockey Michael Baze, a talented American rider with a career 918 wins who died from an accidental overdose of cocaine and opioids at only age 24, highlighting the importance of effective addiction treatment services for struggling young adults.

    How Michael Baze Died

    With hopes of reviving his career, a 24-year-old Baze moved to Arlington Park in Chicago and won another jockey title in 2010. He then finished fourth in the standings at Oaklawn park in Hot Springs, Ark, and set his sights on the Kentucky Derby.

    However, on May 10, 2011, Baze was found dead inside his Cadillac Escalade in the stable area of Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

    A preliminary autopsy found no natural cause of death. On June 3, 2011, Jefferson County deputy coroner Jim Wesley reported the cause of death to be an accidental multiple-substance overdose involving both cocaine and the prescription painkiller oxymorphone (Opana).


    The loss was a moment of pure tragedy for Baze’s family, friends, fans, and the racing community at large, and highlighted the elevated dangers of substance abuse and addiction among jockeys and others involved in the sport of horse racing.

    About Michael Baze

    Michael Baze was born on April 14, 1987, in Renton, Washington, to a family with a long and successful history in the sport of horse racing. 

    He was the son of retired jockey Mike Baze and his uncle, Gary Baze, is recognized as a member of the Washington Racing Hall of Fame. Baze’s cousins also include jockey Tyler Baze and U.S. Racing Hall of Fame inductee Russell Baze.

    Family History Of Mental Health Issues

    Unfortunately, Baze’s family also had extensive issues with substance abuse and mental health issues, leading to his parents’ estrangement when Baze was two and little contact with his father during his childhood.

    Professional Career

    Nevertheless, Baze followed his father’s footsteps and secured his own jockey’s license in 2003 and began riding in California before moving to the east coast later that year. 

    He found early success at Monmouth Park Racetrack in New Jersey and in 2006, he returned to southern California.

    At age 20, in 2007, he had his breakout year and became the youngest jockey since Bill Shoemaker in 1950 to win a riding title at Hollywood Park. 

    Other major thoroughbred racing events included the Carleton F. Burke Handicap, the Borderland Derby, the Las Flores Handicap, the Oak Tree Mile Stakes, the American Invitational Handicap, the Best Pal Stakes, the Wilshire Handicap, and the San Diego Handicap.

    Substance Abuse & Addiction

    Despite his success as a leading rider, Baze also began developing a problem with substance abuse that soon impacted his personal and professional life for the worst.

    He tested positive for cocaine in 2004 and admitted to both marijuana and alcohol use, leading to a suspension from competition for six months by the California Horse Racing Board. He was required to submit to drug testing and rehabilitation treatment programs as part of his probation.

    Personal Problems

    His substance abuse and its fallout caused a rift to form between Baze and his wife, Kelly, who he married in 2007 and had two children with. They would separate in 2010 and file for divorce in 2011, with Kelly stating that Baze had relapsed and was struggling with severe depression.


    Baze received a substance intoxication charge at Del Mar, California and was also arrested for first-degree possession of cocaine in Louisville, Kentucky in November 2010. 

    He spent time in counseling while struggling with both substance abuse and depression while bouncing between agents and circuits with little professional success.

    Recovery Is Possible

    Jockeys are at a particularly high risk for substance abuse, addiction, and mental health issues, as they face all the challenges of other professional athletes but without teammates or other built-in support structures. 

    Many also live with high levels of mental stress due to chronic pain, financial insecurity, and pressure to maintain low weight. In the absence of close emotional support and accountability, this can often lead to substance abuse as a coping strategy.

    Fortunately, mental health and addiction treatment services are readily available to support those who struggle with substance abuse and addiction as Michael Baze did.

    At Ark Behavioral Health, we make recovery possible by offering a complete continuum of care for substance use disorders including those that involve cocaine, opioids, alcohol, and other prescription and illicit substances.

    To learn more, please contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
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