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Jockey Russell Baze

Jockey Russell Baze breaks the all-time win record

Date: 11/01/06

Veteran rider Russell Baze broke Laffit Pincay Jr.s all-time wins record, notching career win number 9,531 in the 4th race on Friday December 1 aboard Butterfly Belle at Bay Meadows. He said in the winner's circle, "When I got to the wire it was a feeling of total relief. There was elation that I had won the race and become the world's winningest rider and relief that everyone who had been coming out here could finally go home. I could hardly believe when I started out that I'd be standing here someday, and here I am. From the biggest stables on the grounds to the little guys with two horses, they've all shown a lot of faith in me. I thank Laffit for being here. I know he was pulling for me. There's not a greater rider or better sportsman in horse racing. Having Laffit here was the biggest pressure of all. I wanted to win and let him and my family get on with their lives." When asked about his next goal, Baze said, "I hope to get to 10,000 (wins). I'm really healthy right now, and I enjoy what I'm doing so I don't think riding another four or five years is a stretch."

Baze aboard Butterfly Belle at Bay Meadow after breaking the record
Pincay said, "Russell is a great rider. He works very hard out there every day. It takes a lot of ability and a lot of dedication. He deserves the record." Northern California-based jockey Joe Castro added, "Throughout my 20 years here, I've learned a lot from Russell. It doesn't matter where you do it. To win that many races, you have to be doing something right."

Starting his career in the Pacific Northwest, he notched win number 1 on October 28, 1974 at Yakima Meadows, Washington aboard a horse trained by his father, a retired jockey. Clearly, horsemanship runs in the family, as along with his father, his brother Dale and cousins Gary, Tyler, and Michael are all jockeys. He moved his tack to the Northern California circuit and has remained there for the balance of his career, except for a three-year stint in Southern California. Often criticized as a big fish in a small pond, Baze has dominated the Bay Area, winning 400 races in 11 of the last 13 years, but would have made it 13 straight years if not for injury. He led the country in wins seven times so far, and holds he record for most wins on a single card of racing in Northern California with seven on April 13, 1992. Part of his reasons for staying in the Bay Area is to give his wife Tami, daughters Trinity, Brandi, and Cassie, and son, Gable a stable home.

Baze aboard Lost in the Fog after winning the King's Bishop Stakes at Saratoga
Pincay said a few days before the record was broken, "He works very hard and he loves to ride. I knew sooner or later somebody would break my record, and when I retired I pointed out that it would be either Pat Day or Russell Baze. Pat Day retired but Russell is still going strong and riding great. I think he'll definitely win 10,000 races. He rides good horses, mediocre horses, and bad horses, and he rides them all the same. He gives them everything he has."

Along with riding in the races in the afternoon, he works horses in the mornings 6 days a week. Baze said of his work ethic, "I think it's just because I don't know how to do any different. I think I'd be bored if I stayed home and didn't come out to the track and stay busy. I know it helps my business, but I just think I'd be bored if I didn't come out here and work or keep my mind busy. It also keeps my body in good shape."

With the wins have come accolades, including the 2002 George Woolf Memorial Award, nine straight Isaac Murphy awards for best winning percentage, and was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1999. He is best known most recently as the regular rider of 2005 champion sprinter Lost In The Fog, who he considers his best horse ever. Asked about other favorites hes ridden, he said, "Event of the Year...a great horse. Hawkster. He was a very talented horse. He was kind of a psycho, but he was a real talented individual. Simply Majestic. He was a horse that could run with the best horses around. When he was on his game, you could not hardly beat him. A lot of the horses that are my own personal favorites are not the champion type horses. For example, Sekondi. In his prime he was probably a lower level stakes horse or high allowance horse. As he aged he went down the class ladder, but every time you could count on him to come with a huge run from the quarter pole. He was just a real thrill to ride when he was making that run."

Lost in the Fog's trainer Greg Gilchrist said, "Russell has so many good qualities, but the first thing that sticks out is how much he loves to be a jockey. There are incredible demands on one's time in this industry, but Russell is so dedicated. I remember watching him one night here in the dead of winter. The days were growing short, it was around 5 pm and getting dark. The rain was coming down sideways, the mud was a foot deep and Russell stuck around for the last race to ride an $8,000 maiden. I looked at him on a television monitor as he was entering the gate and he was smiling. That's Russell. He's a guy who was absolutely born to be what he is. He's taken great care of himself and he's also been very lucky to escape serious injury. He's also the type who will be in the barn area on a Monday morning when two-thirds of the other riders aren't. When you put him on a horse, whether it's a 1-5 shot or a 15-1 shot, if you get beat, it will never be for a lack of trying. He rides hard all the time and rides to win. He's a very good person and ambassador for our sport. This is a milestone that I don't think we are going to see broken again for a long time, maybe not even in our lifetime."

More about Russell Baze

Top 25 Jockey by Wins
(through November 28, 2006)
Laffit A. Pincay, Jr.48,4869,5307,7846,650$237,120,625
Russell A. Baze*42,5539,5287,3126,078$144,764,914
William Shoemaker40,3508,8336,1364,987$123,375,524
Pat Day40,2988,8036,8605,687$297,912,019
David A. Gall41,7757,3966,5256,131$24,972,821
Chris J. McCarron34,2397,1415,6704,672$263,985,505
Angel Cordero, Jr.38,6577,0576,1365,359$164,570,227
Jorge Velasquez40,8526,7956,1785,755$125,544,379
Sandy Hawley31,4556,4494,8254,159$88,681,292
Earlie Fires*44,5416,4035,4995,321$84,474,470
Larry Snyder35,6816,3885,0303,440$47,207,289
Eddie J. Delahoussaye39,2136,3845,6765,586$195,884,940
Carl Gambardella39,0186,3495,9535,353$29,389,041
John Longden32,4136,0324,9144,273$24,665,800
Jerry D. Bailey30,8555,8934,5533,925$296,104,129
Mario G. Pino*35,6575,8215,2844,912$97,511,404
Edgar S. Prado*30,0595,7704,8994,273$187,093,861
Jacinto Vasquez37,3375,2284,7144,510$85,754,115
Ronald D. Ardoin32,3355,2264,2983,793$58,908,059
Anthony S. Black*32,7705,0444,3474,217$58,236,568
Mark Guidry*30,7454,9664,3914,115$96,381,840
Rick Wilson24,6814,9394,2503,461$77,303,270
Perry Wayne Ouzts*38,5144,9024,7704,686$28,400,723
Gary L. Stevens27,5944,8884,3653,976$221,207,064
Rodolfo Baez28,6094,8754,2914,103$30,474,225
* = Denotes a person who is currently active
Courtesy of Equibase Company

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