(KRON) The Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame has inducted its five newest members. Russell Baze holds the record for most career wins of any jockey in North America.
KRON4’s Gary Radnich talked with Baze before the induction ceremony on April 24, 2017.
Russell Baze has 12,842 wins over a career that spanned four decades “I remember some of them, but not all of them.” “No the wins are way more memorable. There are some memorable seconds, but not near as many as the wins.”
Baze’s success is no surprise as racing was the family business. A number of relatives spent their lives on the track including his cousins and father.
With more than 53,000 mounts under his belt with many of them at Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows Baze fondly recalls his first professional race at the age of 16 with his dad by his side “I was lucky. On the training ranch that we had there, there was a guy that was training some appaloosa race horses, so he had two he was gonna run in the race and he asked me if I can go and ride one. Dad said ‘yeah sure, you’ve been on the horse in the morning, you know him. So the main thing he told me, he says, keep your finger holding the mane when that gate opens up and you don’t want to fall on his mouth. And sure enough I lost my finger holding, fell back and the horse’s mouth was wide open. So I ended up running in third.”
Baze wouldn’t finish third too many times after that, he led North American jockeys in annual wins for 13 years riding his way to nearly $200 million in career earnings. But all that money didn’t come without its fair share of broken bones.
“I never stopped to count em up, but I remember which ones were broken.” “I broke my back one time and I was out for two months with that. Broken bone in my back.” “They don’t pay us for sitting on the sidelines. You gotta heal quick.”
Radnich asked Baze how did you know your career was over? “Well I went down and broke my collarbone and I got back down from that. My wife and kids, during their downtime, they said, ‘you know you’ve been riding for a long time. You are going to have to quit eventually.’ they just kind of wanted to see me go out without being forced out and that’s what I wanted to and there wasn’t going to be a better time to retire. So I just made a deal with them that i’m just going to finish out this meet. I’m going to be leading rider one more time and then i’ll hang em up.”