By Claire Novak
Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze and Texas-based trainer Steven Asmussen wrapped up the 2005 season as North America's leading jockey and trainer by wins.Riding at Bay Meadows, 47-year-old Baze racked up 375 victories out of 1,247 starts for a win rate of 30%. He finished in the money 64%."Things went very well for me this year," said Baze. "I was lucky enough to partner up with [trainer] Greg Gilchrist and Lost in the Fog, and aside from the month of June when I was out with a broken collarbone, I had a great year."Baze rode Harry Aleo's brilliant 3-year-old, the favorite for the Eclipse Award in the sprint division, to eight out of nine stakes wins this year. "He's the kind of horse that makes my job real easy, he's real enjoyable to ride," the jockey said. "You put his talent on top of that and combine it with the ability to ship all over the country and stay at top form for as long as he has, and you can see that he's just a fabulous horse."Based in Northern California, Baze has led the nation in wins eight times since 1992. In '95 he became the first jockey to win 400 or more races in a year for four consecutive years. Baze passed the legendary Bill Shoemaker's record for races won on Jan. 22nd of 2005, moving into second place on the jockeys' all-time win list. He is less than 400 victories away from breaking Laffit Pincay, Jr.'s record of 9,530 wins. John Velazquez headed the 2005 North American leading jockeys' list in earnings with $20,799,923. Velazquez rode the winners of 250 races from 1,147 mounts. Asmussen found continued success in 2005, sending out Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Summerly for Winchell Thoroughbreds on May 6th. Saddling his final winner for the year on Friday at the Fair Grounds at Harrah's Louisiana Downs meet, the 40-year-old trainer brought his 2005 total to 474 wins out of 2,227 starts. "We had a good year [in 2005], nothing as remarkable [as 2004], but still a good year," Asmussen said. "Without a doubt, winning the Oaks was the main thing... [but West Virginia Derby winner] Real Dandy also had a great year. I think we have horses of that caliber for 2006, if not better."Todd Pletcher saddled 257 winners from 1,039 starters while establishing a new North American single-season earnings record for trainers with $20,867,842. The previous record-holder, Robert Frankel, finished second with earnings of $14,122,807 from 128 wins and 581 starters. Asmussen was next with $13,302,283.Asmussen's horses won at a 21% clip this year, finishing in the money 52%. In 2004, Asmussen broke the single season record for wins by a trainer, wrapping up the year with 555 wins out of 2,293 starts. He led the country by wins for the third time in his 19-year training career, maintaining divisions among the nation's top racing circuits including New York, Chicago, Kentucky, Texas, and Louisiana.For the third consecutive year, Michael Gill topped the North American leading owners' list in 2005 with earnings of $6,397,180. His color-bearers won 351 of 1,870 races. Runner-up was Melnyk Racing Stables, Inc., whose runners won 89 of 417 starts and $5,875,007.Saint Liam led all Thoroughbreds with 2005 North American earnings of $3,696,960. Following Saint Liam was Flower Alley with $2,435,200.