Russell Baze: The Winningest Jockey

Submitted by
on August 15, 2013

As the jockey holding the record for the most wins in the history of North American horse racing, Russell Baze is the focus of a recent in-depth profile by the New York Times. Entitled simply The Jockey, the article starts off with an account of Baze’s 50,000th start, before taking readers back to the beginning and winding its way skillfully through the Hall-of-Famer‘s career. Baze was riding Finish Rich – described as an undistinguished filly that had not won a race in almost a year – for his 50,000th start. The filly came in third on that race, adding another achievement to the amazing career of the 55 year-old jockey.

Born on 7 August 1958, Russell Avery Baze started his horse racing career in 1974, winning his first race at the Yakima racetrack. By the time he won the California Derby in 1981, Baze was well established as a talented jockey. His achievements at California tracks include 36 titles at Bay Meadows and 27 titles at Golden Gate Fields. Having won 400 or more races a year for four years in a row, Baze was honored in 1995 with a special Eclipse Award. Since receiving the Eclipse Award, Baze has won 400 or more races in a year another seven times. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1999 and was chosen to receive the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 2002. He has received the Isaac Murphy Award thirteen times since its inception in 1995. Named in honor of 19th century African American Hall of Fame jockey Isaac Murphy, the award is made by the National Turn Writers Association to the jockey with the highest winning percentage and 500-race minimum during the year.

Because Baze has chosen to remain in the Bay Area, he was relatively unknown in national and international horse racing circles, and critics have pointed out that he hasn’t been tested against international talent. Baze himself acknowledges that he does not claim to be the greatest jockey. Nevertheless, his achievements are impressive, and with the NYT profiling his career, more people will come to know the name of Russell Baze.

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