Updated on 09/18/2011 2:38AM

9,531: Baze new No. 1

Vassar Photography
Russell Baze returns aboard Butterfly Belle after his record-setting victory on Friday at Bay Meadows.

SAN MATEO, Calif. – Russell Baze rode the rail to his record-setting 9,531st victory Friday aboard Butterfly Belle in the fourth race at Bay Meadows, surpassing Laffit Pincay Jr. to become horse racing’s all-time winningest rider.

Baze, 48, was well back early in the five-furlong $12,500 claimer on the turf, but he and Butterfly Belle rallied inside to win by 2 1/4 lengths, returning $5.60 as the 9-5 favorite.

"When she got to the lead, I took a peek," Baze said. "There was nothing on the rail. There was nothing coming. I was pretty sure she could hang on to the wire. It was a feeling of total relief."

As Baze began to open up on the field, track announcer Michael Wrona, who also called the race when Pincay surpassed Bill Shoemaker to become the winningest rider, said, "This is the race, and a sterling career becomes gilt-edged."

The victory came in Baze's fourth mount of the day and his sixth since tying Pincay aboard Christie's Fame in Thursday's sixth race.

Baze doffed his racing helmet to the fans who were crowding around the winner's circle upon his return. As he was led to the winner's circle, he flexed both arms.

After pictures were taken and he dismounted, Baze hugged Pincay, who had attended each of the Bay Meadows cards since Saturday, and trainer Jeanne Shand, who saddled Butterfly Belle for Southern California trainer Mark Glatt.

Shand, who saddled Christie's Fame on Thursday, said Baze told her, "Thank you, Jeanne. I couldn't have done it without you."

Baze told appreciative fans, "Who would have thought 32 years ago a skinny kid who hardly knew how to ride would be standing here now? You can hardly dream that something like that could happen."

Baze was quick to salute Pincay: "I'd like to thank Laffit for being here. I knew I had one person pulling for me.

"There's not a greater rider or a better sportsman in horse racing than Laffit," Baze said.

Pincay said it was important for him to be present to pass the torch to someone he respects.

"Russell is a great rider," Pincay said. "He works very hard out there every day. It takes a lot of ability and a lot of dedication. He deserves the record."

Joe Castro, representing the northern California jockey colony, saluted Baze as well.

"Throughout my 20 years here, I've learned a lot from Russell," said Castro. "It doesn't matter where you do it. To win that many races, you have to be doing something right."

Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows provided Baze and his wife, Tami, with a trip to Europe. In the winner's circle after the race were Tami; the couple's four children, Trinity, Brandi, Cassie and Gable; Baze's parents, Joe and Beverley; and numerous other friends, family, and horsemen.

Baze's first ride was aboard an Appaloosa at Walla Walla, Wash., before he turned 16 in 1974. His career officially began at Yakima Meadows on Oct. 18, 1974, when he finished fourth with Captain Thunder. His first winner, saddled by his father, came with his eighth mount, Oregon Warrior, on Oct. 28, 1974, at Yakima Meadows.

Baze completed 1974 with 2 wins, 3 seconds, and 4 thirds from 20 mounts. Since then, he has led the nation in victories eight times, including five years in a row from 1992-96.

He has won 400 races 11 times since 1992. No other jockey has won 400 races in a year more than three times. Baze will have to pick up the pace a bit to reach 400 victories this year for the 12th time in his career. He ranks third in national standings for wins with 351 through his record ride, but once again has the highest percentage of wins. In the 11 years since the National Turf Writers Association inaugurated the Isaac Murphy Award for the nation's highest percentage-winning rider, Baze has won the award 10 times, missing only in 2004, when he missed time with an injury.

In 1995, he received a special Eclipse Award after becoming the first jockey to win 400 races four straight years.

Baze has dominated the northern California standings. He has won 29 riding championships at Golden Gate Fields and 36 at Bay Meadows, where he has won every riding title since 1981. He has a substantial lead at the current Bay Meadows meeting.

Baze was born Aug. 7, 1958, in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was raised in Washington. He has three brothers, including Jeff and Dale, who also rode, and one sister.