06/03/2005 12:00AM

Baze hits No. 9,000 and heads back to office


ALBANY, Calif. - On the day after he recorded his 9,000th career victory, Russell Baze arrived at Golden Gate Fields around 6:30 a.m., as usual, to begin another day.

Baze is a man of routine. Every day, he comes to the track to work horses in the morning. And, every day, it seems, he visits the winner's circle in the afternoon.

Only Laffit Pincay Jr. and 530 victories stood between Baze and the title of winningest rider of all time when Baze got to Golden Gate Fields on Friday morning. Baze hit the 9,000 mark aboard Queen of the Hunt in the final race Thursday. He got win No. 8,999 with Somethinaboutlaura in the third race, his first mount on Thursday's card.

Queen of the Hunt made Baze work hard to reach the milestone, which came in a $6,250 claimer at 1 1/16 miles.

"At the quarter pole, she was starting to get tired, and we were still a long way from home," Baze said. "I kept throwing crosses at her and yelling and she kept going, but she was drifting out. When I'd take hold to try to straighten her out, she started to stop so I let her go to keep as much momentum up as I could."

Baze moved into second place on the all-time victory list, past Bill Shoemaker's total of 8,833, when he won aboard Hollow Memories Jan. 22 at Golden Gate Fields.

When Golden Gate Fields honored him on May 28, Baze paid tribute to Pincay but also said that 10,000 victories was one of his goals.

Baze began his first day as one of only two members of the 9,000 club in the usual way. He left his home in Woodside at 6 a.m., arrived at Golden Gate Fields around 6:30, and worked horses. On some days, he will make a quick stop at Bay Meadows in San Mateo to work a horse before going to Golden Gate Fields, and he goes to Bay Meadows every Tuesday morning to work horses.

Few of the sport's top riders work the number of horses Baze does. For Baze, it's just part of the job.

"I'm blessed to be in an occupation I love," said Baze, whose mounts are booked by Ray Harris. "I don't get on that many, but I ride better in the afternoon after I've worked horses in the morning.

"It also lets me know how a horse is doing, so I can tell Ray if there's a conflict in a race."

Baze takes pride in helping trainers develop horses. He has worked with the undefeated Lost in the Fog since last spring, helping trainer Greg Gilchrist turn a fast but green colt into the top 3-year-old sprinter in the country.

"Greg is the one who deserves all the credit, but I may have had a role in his development," he said.

Baze credits the trainers who have put him on fast horses for his success, and no trainer has put him on more fast horses than Jerry Hollendorfer. Fittingly, Hollendorfer trains the horse who gave Baze No. 9,000, Queen of the Hunt. He and Baze believe they have combined for about 2,000 victories over the years.

"Jerry's been good to me, putting me on his good horses," Baze said. "There's nobody I'd rather do it for."

Hollendorfer was pleased to be part of the milestone victory.

"We've worked well together," Hollendorfer said. "Everybody in racing knows what it means to win 9,000 races. I was happy to stand there with him. It made my day."

Baze, voted into the Hall of Fame in 1999, is on pace for his 12th 400-win season in the past 14 years. He has led the nation in victories seven times and leads this year, comfortably in front of Rodney Prescott, with 195 victories to Prescott's 159.

He won a special Eclipse Award in 1995 when he became the first jockey ever to win 400 races in a year for four straight years.

He won the first nine Isaac Murphy Awards, which is given the rider with the highest win percentage in the nation (minimum 500 mounts), before failing to win in 2004. He won the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, given to annually to a jockey who reflects credit on himself and the sport, in a vote of his fellow riders in 2002.