Few jockeys ride in as many races as Russell Baze. He’s clocked up almost 49,000 now. What proportion of them would you think he had won? Astonishingly, Baze has won on 11,664 of his rides, a staggering 23.8% of them in a lifetime of race riding.
Few people in Britain have heard of Baze, largely because he has rarely travelled outside North America. Baze is determined to reach 12,000 winners before he hangs up his stirrup irons, and is currently locked in a battle with South American jockey Jorge Ricardo to reach that milestone. Although Baze has ridden more winners than anyone else in North America, Ricardo is ahead in the race to 12,000, having clocked 11,696 career wins. We’ll keep a lookout to see how this progresses over the coming months. It’s likely that by this time next year both will have reached the 12,000 mark.
Baze turns 54 today, and last week received the news that he will be inducted into the Washington Sports Hall of Fame on 19 August. He’ll become only the second recipient of this award from the world of racing. He already has numerous other awards, including membership of the Washington Racing Hall of Fame.
Although his parents are both American, Baze was actually born in Canada, and it’s this that has helped gain him a nomination to this year’s Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, for which the ceremony takes place on 16 Aug. I hope if he has to take two days off riding it doesn’t cost him too many winners!
His father was a jockey, so it’s not surprising that “Russell the Muscle” followed the same trade. He rode his first winner at the age of sixteen, and since then has been a fixture on the North California circuit. Laffit Pincay, who previously held the record number of wins in North America, led the praise for all Baze has achieved. He said, “I knew sooner or later somebody would break my record, and when I retired I pointed out it would be either Pat Day or Russell Baze. Pat Day retired but Russell is still going strong and riding great. He rides good horses, mediocre horses and bad horses and he rides them all the same. He gives them everything he has.”