Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze, racing's all-time winning rider, has announced his retirement, effective immediately, according to media officials at Santa Anita Park.
Baze won 12,842 races in North America, according to Equibase statistics, more than any other jockey. His mounts earned purses in excess of $199 million.
A native of Vancouver, British Columbia, Baze began his career in the Pacific Northwest, winning his first race Oct. 28, 1974 at Yakima Meadows. Baze posted his final win June 10 aboard Vow to Be Tops in the 10th race at Golden Gate Fields. His final mount came aboard Wahine Warrior, whom he rode to a second-place finish in the 10th race on the track's closing-day card June 12.
His retirement was first reported by The Paulick Report earlier in the day June 13.
Agent Ray Harris confirmed Baze's unexpected retirement.
"He's retired—and so am I," Harris told the Sacramento Bee June 13.. "We've been together a long time, longer than any other jockey and agent, since 1979."
Harris, who learned of Baze's decision as they walked off the track after that last mount, was surprised but not shocked, he said. Harris' own pending retirement likely prompted the rider's decision.
"Russell kept it a secret; he only told his family," Harris said. "I should have figured it out. His family was showing up at the track every day (this past week). But I told him I was retiring as soon as my house was sold, and it's about to sell. I'm moving to Arizona."
Baze's 54 riding titles at Golden Gate Fields includes the championship he won during the recently concluded 2015-16 winter/spring meet. The 57-year-old won a total of 5,765 races at Golden Gate Fields during his career.
Baze overtook Laffit Pincay Jr. as North America's top rider by wins when he recorded career victory No. 9,531 on Dec. 1, 2006, at defunct Bay Meadows. He is the only jockey to win 400 or more races for seven straight years (1992-98).
Baze's top mounts include Hawkster, Itsallgreektome, Soviet Problem, Event of the Year, Lost in the Fog, Bold Chieftain, Smiling Tiger, and Shared Belief.
Baze was inducted into the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2012. His fellow jockeys honored him with the 2002 George Woolf Memorial Award.
Baze had recently returned after breaking his right collarbone April 16 in a fall at Golden Gate. Despite missing five weeks, he won 30 races after his return and the Golden Gate riding title, his 54th at the track.. The injury played into his decision, Harris said.
"His family wanted him to retire after (the injury)," Harris said. "He said he wanted another Golden Gate title and to go out a winner. That's what he did, like walking off after a championship."
"All of us at The Stronach Group (owner of Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields) would like to congratulate Russell Baze on his stellar career and offer our best wishes as he begins his retirement," said Joe Morris, senior vice president of West Coast operations. "For decades Russell dominated the jockey standings at Golden Gate Fields and other Northern California tracks. His 12,842 wins in North America is a record that may never well be broken.
"Russell should also be commended for having always conducted his business with the highest level of class. His retirement will leave a large void not just in Northern California, but in all of horse racing."
Debbie Arrington contributed to this story