Updated on 09/17/2011 9:45AM

Baze honored by fan


ALBANY, Calif. - Jockey Russell Baze has received many honors and awards throughout his career, but he will receive one of his most unusual awards Monday at Golden Gate Fields.

A fan, D. Vernon Willis of Hillsborough, Calif., will present Baze with a specially commissioned color drawing of his 8,000th career victory, which came on Oct. 26 at Bay Meadows aboard Ourwhistlebritches.

"I'm like a lot of people. I read the paper and follow the box scores," Willis said. "I follow great athletes like Jerry Rice and Annika Sorenstam and Russell Baze.

"I'm not a gambler, but I just get a great deal of pleasure to see how great and consistent he is."

Willis is an art collector. He was struck by a picture he saw of Baze's 8,000th victory. He contacted the Bay Meadows publicity department and arranged to get a copy of the photo. He then commissioned local artist Shelia Gordon to do a drawing.

"She's done work for Kobe Bryant and Tiger Woods," Willis said. "I think she's captured the horse and Russell better than the medium of paint."

Willis said that in the early 1960's he earned money for graduate school by buying Daily Racing Forms early in the morning at Del Mar and selling them along the beach. But he says it has been many years since he has gone to the track.

The 3-foot by 4-foot drawing will be presented to Baze between races in the Golden Gate Fields winner's circle.

"It's kind of awkward," Baze said. 'I didn't do anything to deserve this, but it's a nice gesture."

Baze was recently confirmed as the winner of the Isaac Murphy Award as the nation's leading percentage rider. He has won every year since the award was initiated in 1995, although he has not received a trophy for the past two years.

Another Baze returns

Baze's cousin Gary Baze arrives at Golden Gate Fields this week and will begin riding on Saturday.

Gary Baze broke his left ankle and leg in a mishap at Emerald Downs last summer and spent nearly three months in a cast. He was released by his doctor in December and began riding weekends at Portland Meadows to get back into shape.

"I want to ride at Golden Gate Fields," Baze said. "I'll be there until April when I'll return to Emerald. I'll ride mostly for people who will be at Emerald."