Golden Gate Jockey Russell Baze Tops 50,000 Rides

by BAHelberg

With no thoughts for retirement, champion horse racing jockey Russell Baze intends to keep earning mounts after topping the 50,000 mark in racetrack starts.

Only Laffit Pincay, Jr. has approached Thoroughbred jockey Russell Baze's 50,000 mounts.

Pincay retired with 48,486 starts, while Russell accomplished ride number 50,000 at Golden Gate Fields aboard Finish Rich in Nyc on January 25, 2013. The five-figure mark made Baze the all-time leading rider in starts, but he is also North America's all-time leading jockey in wins.

Jockeys urge their mounts to the finish line
Jockeys urge their mounts to the finish line

Baze Modest About Riding Milestones

Most Wins in History

Baze is just shy of 12,000 victories in his 37-year Thoroughbred riding career. At 54, he is the darling of Golden Gate Fields racetrack at San Francisco, California, where most of his wins have been achieved.

A Thoroughbred racehorse most often weighs in at 1,000 pounds plus, while a normally diminutive jockey is required to keep his own weight very low, close to a tenth of his mount's weight, to meet racing standards and allow his racehorse to carry as light a load as possible while flying through a race at an accelerating speed.     

Of the 50,000 mounts mark, the modest Baze told interviewers he didn't think "it's any big thing just going out there that many times". Baze said going out and "really being successful" at riding the Thoroughbreds assigned to him is "what is important".

On the day before riding his 50,000th mount, Baze had won 11,839 races. He triumphed in his first three rides on the January 25 Golden Gate Fields race card.

Baze in Racing Hall of Fame

Making His Mark

On August 9, 1999, Baze was honored with membership in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame as a native of Vancouver, British Columbia. Over his many years of performing in one of the most dangerous sports, Baze has enjoyed good health as he continues his profession. He believes his skill set is undiminished and the support of trainers and owners for whom he rides seems to confirm it.  

Thirteen times, Baze has won 400 races in one season. He also accomplished the 400-victory plateau in four consecutive years and was presented a Special Eclipse Award in 1995 that recognized his unique record. No other jockey in history has achieved 400 victories in one year in more than three seasons.

At Golden Gate Fields, Baze has won 44 annual riding championships. In addition, he lead his fellow riders at the old Bay Meadows Racecourse in San Mateo, California, 40 times. In twelve different years, he has led American riders in number of victories. Overall, his riding career shows an astonishing 24 percent strike rate.

When he surpassed Pincay, who was forced to the sidelines because of injuries in 2003, for most wins ever in North American Thoroughbred racing history, Baze rode to career victory No. 9,531 on Butterfly Belle at Bay Meadows on December 1, 2006.

The active jockey nearest to Baze's number of mounts taken to the starting gate is Hall of Famer Edgar Prado, who had 35,797 race starts through January 24 this year. 

"...I'm having a blast," Baze said, adding that consideration of quitting the sport is no where in sight down the racetrack.

Updated: 02/24/2013, BAHelberg
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BAHelberg on 03/02/2013

@Kingnet...Happy to have had a hand in your renewed joy of horse racing. I'm not actually a bettor, but I do pick'em in my head as I watch. Reviewing a horse's past performances, the tracks he likes, who rides him, and his pedigree, as well as some other points, usually leads me to more "wins" than miscues.

Is it Garrett Gomez, you're thinking of? (I'm certain to do an Albarado -- he rode one of my favorite chestnuts, Curlin, and Flores has had an interesting ride, as well.) I had several different categories I wrote about at Suite, and jockeys, trainers, and owners never got enough attention there as I covered the actual racing seasons through the horses themselves. But I'll do that "channel" here.

Thanks for your interesting remarks!

Kingnet on 03/02/2013

Looking at your articles takes me back ten years or so when I went to the track every weekend. I may go back soon, call my friend and see if he wants to go. All I got to do is call him and ask him if he wants to tri-box a couple and we'll be going. We used to clean up at the offtracks. We pretty much ate and drank for free. I hope you do an article on Albarado and Flores. There was a rider called Gomez that was key for picking a super or tri. He'd either come up and burn us or come up and pay us. Thanks for reminding me what an exciting sport horse racing is.

BAHelberg on 03/02/2013

@Kingnet....Thanks for reading this article and sharing your experience!

For certain, Russell Baze is amazing in his riding and his health in one of the most dangerous sports we have created. I agree, a bettor has a clear choice when Baze is in the irons!

Kingnet on 03/02/2013

I have watched Baze run hundreds of times. When I used to race or go to the track and watch races or at the offtrack places, a friend and I would handicap the races and if Baze was in the race, he was a factor to consider, no matter which horse, owner or trainer he was racing with. A person that knows nothing about horse racing could have probably done well just by placing Baze in every race he jockeyed in.

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