Riding with a confidence that comes with 12,543 career victories, Russell Baze piloted Central Heat to a come-from-behind win in Saturday’s $61,615 Golden Poppy Stakes at Golden Gate Fields.

He may have been on the slight betting favorite, but it took a Hall of Fame ride for Central Heat to end up in the winner’s circle. Baze broke perfectly with the daughter of Unusual Heat from the six post and was able to secure solid position behind the leaders in the two to three path. Saving as much ground as possible on each turn appeared to be the strategy.

On the stretch turn, Baze waited patiently on the rail while Theatre Star, the eventual second place finisher, went past him and took the lead in the stretch. At the perfect time at the top of the lane, Baze guided Central Heat to a small opening and swung out for the stretch run. If he had moved his mount out on the turn, Central Heat would have lost too much ground and could have finished second or third. Instead, Baze saved all the ground possible and was in perfect position for a stretch run.

The veteran rider had the whip in his left hand and only used it twice to make sure his mount did not bear in. He kept her straight and made a very difficult neck victory look easy.