Lumpkins has been the second-leading jockey at Bay Meadows three times and nearly dethroned Baze at the 2001 spring meeting when he won 89 races. Baze took the title with 95 victories.
Lumpkins, citing a desire to raise his family in an area with a slower-paced lifestyle, last year purchased a 165-acre farm in Kentucky that is located some 40 miles northeast of Louisville.
Lumpkins exceeded his Northern California success in Kentucky, taking the championship at Turfway Park's 2003 winter-spring meeting by riding a record 111 winners.
Business slowed for Lumpkins following the Turfway Park meeting, however, and he rode with limited success at Keeneland, Churchill Downs and, most recently, Ellis Park. He is hoping to get things rolling again at Bay Meadows.
"I left (the Bay Area) on a good note and I hope they treat me as fair as they did the last time," said Lumpkins. "And I'm going to give 110 percent like I did last time. I will be staying for the entire Bay Meadows meet and hopefully I can be leading rider or second-leading rider."
Lumpkins is returning to a strong jockey colony that is headed by Baze but also includes tough veterans Ron Warren, Jr. (who took second at both the 2003 Bay Meadows spring meeting and the 2002-2003 Golden Gate Fields season) and Roberto Gonzalez (third at the 2003 Bay Meadows spring meet).
"Russell's a great rider and super hard to compete against," said Lumpkins. "There was a lot of business left open when I left and Ronnie and Gonzalez took advantage and established themselves again. Now it's my job to get in town, do my homework and do what I've got to do (to get the business back)."
Lumpkins' family – wife Dawn and kids Amanda and Steven – will remain in Kentucky while he competes at Bay Meadows."It's tough," said Lumpkins of being away from his family. "When I leave I have an empty feeling. But I try to remember that I'm doing it for them and my career. You have to make the money while you have the opportunity."
Judging by the entries for opening day, horsemen are welcoming back the 33-year-old rider, who has mounts in six of Friday's eight races. Lumpkins enters the Bay Meadows meeting with 2,087 career victories. His mounts have earned $23,500,479.
The fall meeting at Bay Meadows runs through Nov. 2.