Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze's next milestone target is 11,000 career wins.

Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze's next milestone target is 11,000 career wins.


Baze's Next Target is 11,000 Wins

After claiming his 11th national riding title for victories in 2009, he's 220 away.

His 11th national riding title for most victories safely tucked away, Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze's next milestone target is 11,000 career wins.

The 51-year-old Baze won three races at Golden Gate Fields on Jan. 7 to push his all-time world-leading total to 10,780. He said he's feeling great and has been fortunate to remain remarkably injury-free during a durable 35-year racing career. Baze began riding at Yakima Meadows in Washington in 1974 and has spent most of his time racing in the San Francisco Bay Area.

"I'd say retirement is down the road still," Baze said in a telephone conversation on Jan. 7. "In two or three years, it may be time to take a look at it."

Baze, who won his 10,000th race on Feb. 1, 2008, led the nation in wins in 2009 with 415. Ramon Dominguez, based in New York, finished second with 391 victories.

"It was a little harder because we had a different schedule this year," he said, due to the loss of Bay Meadows on the Northern California circuit and a problematic horse shortage that reduced the racing week at Golden Gate to four days for much of the season. "I tried to ride in more races each day to make up for some of it, but I didn't have as many opportunities."

The Vancouver, B.C., native has taken command in his personal duel for the world supremacy with longtime Brazilian champion rider Jorge Ricardo, who actually beat Baze to 10,000 wins by a month. But Ricardo, who was diagnosed with lymphoma last year and also was out of action due to an injury, missed 219 days in 2009. He is competing again at La Plata currently, and his career total stands at 10,596 through Jan. 7.

Baze had 1,326 mounts during the 2009 campaign and compiled a gaudy win percentage of 31.2, which also topped the nation and will earn him his 14th Isaac Murphy Award. Instituted in 1995 by the National Turf Writers Association, the Isaac Murphy is presented to the jockey who rides the highest percentage of winners (minimum 500 mounts) during the year. Baze has only lost it once.

"It is kind of a grind," Baze said of the daily racing routine, "but a grind doing something that I really love to do."

Baze says he stays in shape with low impact exercises and avoids jogging because of a bad knee. He credits Ray Harris, his agent since 1979, with supplying him the best available mounts.

"All I try to do is put the horses in position to be competitive," he said.

Baze ranked 31st in national purse earnings with $6,468,824. Garrett Gomez led the nation in earnings with $18,571,171. In his career, Baze's mounts have won $165,883,008.

Elected to racing's National Hall of Fame in 1999, Baze previously led the nation in victories in 2008 (with 403 wins), 2007 (399), 2005 (375), 2002 (431), 2000 (412), 1996 (415), 1995 (448), 1994 (415), 1993 (408), and 1992 (435).

He reached the 400-win mark 11 times in 12 years from 1992-2003, missing only in 1999 because of an injury. Baze won the 2002 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, an honor voted on by his fellow riders.