We spend so much time thinking about the 2022 Breeder’s Cup Contenders these days, we should spend some time thinking about the legends of the past. But, why look back when you can look forward, right?
Wrong! There is so much we can learn from the past, and in truth, legends such as Russell Baze taught us a great deal about how there can be legends in the midst.
Could there be another Russell Baze out there?
But, if we are going to talk about a legend, let’s get to know him first. Some of the newest enthusiasts of the horse racing scene might be new to the name, so, let’s introduce you!
Russell Baze: Who Is He?
Baze launched his riding career in 1974 at the Yakima track. Only a few weeks later did he win his first race at Yakima Meadows. He won in Oregon Warrior, which was a horse his father trained.
By the 80s, Baze was already making his name well known, he won racing titles at the Northern Californian tracks, and he had been a perennial rider leading at the Bay Meadows track and at the Golden Gate Fields tracks.
He has a stunning 60 titles between these two tracks alone!
However, aside from his riding titles and more, he had inductions into the Hall of Fame in Canada and in the U.S.
His career became highlighted in 2006, December, when at Bay Meadows, he eclipsed the North American record previously set by Pincay for the most ever wins when he hit his 9,531st victory!
Pincay himself even applauded the work of Baze, noting that he rides horses of all stock but rides them all the same whether they are legends or poor runners.
Baze competed at almost all major tracks in the U.S., including the big ones like the Kentucky Derby, and also in the Breeder’s Cup, which we are all in hot anticipation for currently.
He ended up moving to Southern California for a few seasons, as he commented on the theory of his career being a big fish in a small pond.
Re-Writing The Record Books
As he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in the United States, he gained other honors including the Isaac Murphy Award, the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, the Eclipse Special Award, and more.
He won the Eclipse for being the first jockey to win 400 races in 4 years consecutively. He won the Isaac Murphy for having the highest percentage of winning.
He never stopped though, even with the awards. He continued to win more than 400 races on repeat, 13 times to be exact.
He spent 38 years in the saddle, got injured many times, even gaining a broken back and neck, but it never stopped him, he kept on riding.
He is a master of horse racing, with over 12,000 wins that he accumulated over 50,000 races. Few riders can be counted to race at this exceptional level.
While these figures are impressive, it is also important to remember that there are few or no other riders who have taken part in quite as many races as Baze did.
Of course, his level of skill is not so surprising when we consider that his father was also a jockey, so horses were in his blood. He started at 16, much earlier than most jockeys ever do.
So, when we think about his statistics, it is not all that shocking really, but still it is very impressive!
What We Remember
There is much to know about Baze, but what we do know is he is a jockey born from jockey’s, from a family of horse riders. His father was a top rider in Washington and in California, and was a legend in Hastings when Baze was born.
His brother was also a jockey and his cousin too.
Baze left the starting gate for the 50 thousandth time in 2013. His milestone was reached in San Francisco.
When this happened he had career stats with a nearly ¼ win percentage, and with over half of his horses reaching the board.
There are only two other riders in existence to have ever hit this mark which are McCarron and Day.
We also remember that Baze participated in many races, it didn’t matter how much value the competition had, every race was a Breeder’s Cup or Triple Crown in his eyes.
This was a view that had him gain countless victories, at 400 per year for his entire 11-year career.
This is something that we are still waiting to see be matched by any other jockey, and we are a long way from seeing these kinds of numbers again.
He wasn’t perfect, but he was a legend on a horses’ back.