South American jockey Jorge Ricardo has just become the first jockey to record a career total of 12,000 winners. In doing so, he’s beaten off a challenge from American Russell Baze, who at one time last year looked as though he could reach that total first. Last year we profiled Baze, (Baze of Glory for Russell the Muscle) but it’s the South American who has come up trumps.
Ricardo has ridden now for 36 years, so he’s ridden an average of 324 winners every single season. He holds annual highest totals in both Brazil (477) and Argentina (467) and has been champion jockey in one of those countries every year since 1982.
Let’s put that into context. Tony McCoy holds the British records for the most winners in a season with the 289 successes he recorded in 2001/02. By the end of the season he’ll be pushing – or maybe just beyond – 4,000 winners. That will leave McCoy still over 800, or another five seasons, behind Sir Gordon Richards’ career total of 4,870. That took Richards over 30 years, although he was riding in an era when commuting from an afternoon to an evening meeting was well nigh impossible.
Ricardo and Baze have spent most of the last ten years exchanging leadership of career wins. Ricardo was first to the 10,000 mark, in January 2008, but Baze reached 11,000 first in August 2010, a rate of a winner almost every single day. During that time, Ricardo spent six months out recovering from cancer.
It’s been a head to head since, with Baze barely a month behind his rival on a score of 11,956, courtesy of a four timer at Golden Gate Fields on Monday. But it is Ricardo whose name is now in the record books, acknowledged by his fellow jockeys as he reached 12,000 with the final leg of a treble on Sunday. Their banner said, “Thank you for sharing your triumphs with all of us…your colleagues.” Appropriately, Ricardo was riding a horse called Scoop.
You might have thought that despite riding in different continents, they would have come up against each other from time to time. Yet they have only come into direct competition with each other once, and that was here in Britain, at Ascot. Both jockeys rode in the same four races in the 2008 Shergar Cup, and they couldn’t muster a winner between them.