Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze put another feather in his cap last week as he finished 3rd aboard Finish Rich at Golden Gate Fields in Albany, California. When the gates flew open for the fourth race of the day, Baze had hit the 50,000 mark in races, becoming the first and only North American jockey to do so.
Baze is a name many race fans won’t be as familiar with as they are past and present greats such as Pat Day, Gary Stevens, Ramon Dominguez, or Mike Smith. The Canadian born Baze has spent most of his career dominating the west coast from Washington down through California. He has won 36 titles at Bay Meadows and 27 at Golden Gate Fields, since beginning his professional career in 1974. His first major win was in the California Derby in 1981 and has the distinction of winning every stakes race at Golden Gate Fields.
Previous to his latest record setting ride, Russell Baze set the all-time wins record, which he continues to add to, in December of 2006 and currently boasts over 11,800 victories. His father was also a leading jockey in the northwest and Baze followed in his footsteps picking up plenty of accolades for his work in the process. In 1995 he was given a special Eclipse Award in recognition of winning over 400 races in four consecutive years. He has hit the 400 win mark another seven times since, which is amazing considering no other jockey has done it more than three times. In 1999 he was inducted into the United States Racing Hall of Fame, securing his spot as one of the greats in the sport, and he has led the U.S. in wins by a jockey ten times, with the latest being in 2008.
Baze says he has no plans on retiring just yet; “I’m pretty fit. I’ve got a lot of miles under me. I don’t think my physical skills have diminished any at all. I get the odd ache and pain here and there but it’s manageable. Well, I think I’ve got a couple years left in me, anyway. Right now, I’m having a blast and have no intention of quitting.” [1} When Russell Baze finally decides he’s had enough, he will be able to look back a career of volume racing that put him in the upper echelon of his profession.