12/05/2001 1:00AM

Baze close to 400


ALBANY, Calif. - Russell Baze, gunning for his seventh national riding title, could make up ground on current leader Ramon Dominguez in Friday's feature at Golden Gate Fields.

Baze will be aboard Flying Alibi as a field of six fillies and mares compete in a one-mile race for a $32,000 claiming price.

Going into this week's races, Baze trailed the Maryland-based Dominguez by four winners, 401-397, despite having ridden 292 fewer mounts. Baze is also approaching the 400-win mark for the ninth time in his career. No other jockey has won 400 races in a year more than three times.

He has won at least 400 races every year since 1992 except for 1999 when he missed two months with an injury and still won 373.

"I'll eye the numbers and look at the standings, but I don't think about being the leading rider nationally when I go into a race," Baze said. "If I did that, I'd probably make mistakes. I just try to go day by day."

If Baze has a trademark as a rider, it's his consistency. His yearly victory total tells you that as does his winning percentage.

When the National Turf Writers Association began to honor the nation's leading percentage rider with the Isaac Murphy Award, Baze won the first award - also the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth.

He should earn the seventh award this year as well. He's winning at a 28 percent clip this season with Jerry Bailey second at 25 percent.

Live mounts such as Flying Alibi are the reason Baze has been able to string together so many good years. Flying Alibi should be in good shape early on what has been a speed-favoring track. While Kiznitti will be gunning for the lead, Flying Alibi and Princess Vye figure to be well positioned close to the lead.

Golden Poppy popular

Saturday's $55,000-added Golden Poppy Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for fillies and mares attracted 14 nominees, many of whom plan to run even if the series of storms hitting northern California forces the race off the turf.

Lil Sister Stitch, winner of the Cal Cup Starter Handicap for fillies and mares, is the top local nominee along with multiple stakes winner Mimi's Cafe. Recent turf winners Miss Ng In Action and Schnitzel will also represent local barns.

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