Russell Baze Notches Victory Number 8,000

Northern California's Russell Baze became only the fourth jockey in Thoroughbred racing history to win 8,000 races when he guided Ourwhistlebritches to a 2 1/2-length victory in the eighth race at Bay Meadows Saturday.

Baze, who entered Saturday's card with 7,998 wins, went 2-for-5 on the day. He won the sixth race with Viva's Pride ($4.40) and then scored his milestone victory aboard Ourwhistlebritches ($7.60) in a six-furlong event for $20,000 maiden claimers.

Baze joins fellow Hall of Famers Laffit Pincay, Jr. (9,439 wins), the retired Bill Shoemaker (8,833), and Pat Day (8,339) as a member of the exclusive 8,000 win club. At age 44, he is the youngest rider to reach the 8,000 win mark.

Ourwhistlebritches, a 2-year-old filly trained by William E. Morey, was Baze's last mount on the card and his last chance to get the landmark victory in front of his family.

"That last one was really important," said Baze. "A couple of my daughters, Cassie and Brandi, have to go back to college in Southern California tomorrow. My wife has to take them to the airport and my son (Gable) would have to go with her."

Although he knew No. 8,000 was eventually going to come, Baze said the feeling of nailing it down was tremendous.

"It feels fantastic," said Baze. In a winner's circle ceremony, he was presented with an off road motorcycle and a sign commemorating the victory. Following the ceremony, Baze rode the Honda X-R 100 up and down the stretch of the racetrack and waved to his cheering fans.

Baze, elected to the Hall of Fame in 1999, is also closing in on 400 victories in 2002, which would be the 10th time in 11 years he has accomplished that. He has 355 so far this year.

The Bay Area kingpin has won the Isaac Murphy Award, given nationally for the jockey with the highest winning percentage, every year since it was started in 1995.

Baze says he has no plans to retire anytime soon.