Russell Baze, North America's all-time leading jockey by victories, reached another major milestone Jan. 25 at Golden Gate Fields by becoming the first to ride 50,000 races (VIDEO) .
The 54-year-old Baze could manage only a third on 3-2 favorite Finish Rich in Nyc in his 50,000th start, a $12,500 claiming race for older fillies and mares at six furlongs. Baze, who is closing in on 12,000 career victories with 11,839, won the first three races on the Golden Gate card.
"I was thinking I was going to go right through the whole card, but it was not to be," joked racing's all-time blue-collar rider afterward.
Of the milestone, he added, "I don't think it's any big thing just going out there that many times, but going out there and really being successful at it, that's what is important."
Speaking of his conditioning, Baze said, "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."
Laffit Pincay Jr., who was forced to retire due to injuries in 2003, is second on the North American rider list with 48,486 starts. The closest active jockey to Baze is Edgar Prado, who ranked ninth overall through Jan. 24 with 35,797 mounts.
Baze said he is giving no thought to retirement, adding, "Well, I think I've got a couple years left in me, anyway."
But he said that four years ago. Baze noted that he still enjoys the game while he has remained healthy, and he continues to have the support of owners and trainers.
"Right now, I'm having a blast and have no intention of quitting," he said.
He later added: "I figure in 2016 I'll have 40 years in, and so, that might be enough. But I'll cross that bridge when I get there."
And, he said, he hates being asked about it. "The other day I had to get a part for a door knob and the guy I bought it from says, 'Hey, I know you, are you still riding?' That's always the first thing they ask me."
A native of Vancouver, British Columbia, Baze was inducted into the National Racing Hall of Fame on Aug. 9, 1999.
Baze has won 44 riding championships at Golden Gate Fields, and also led the jockey standings 40 times at defunct Bay Meadows Race Course. He has led the nation in victories 12 times, including 2012, while maintaining a remarkable 24% strike rate over his lengthy career.
Baze was honored with a special Eclipse Award in 1995 for being the first jockey ever to win 400 or more races in a year for four consecutive years. He has won 400 races in a year 13 times; no other jockey has won 400 races in a year more than three times.
He overtook the great Pincay as the winningest jockey in North American Thoroughbred racing history when he recorded career victory No. 9,531 aboard Butterfly Belle in the fourth race at Bay Meadows Dec. 1, 2006.
Baze's main rival these days is South American rider Jorge Ricardo, who had 11,885 wins through Jan. 24.