08/16/2010 2:23PM

Baze looks beyond milestone


The big news the closing weekend at the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa, Calif., was jockey Russell Baze’s 11,000th career victory, but a pair of young runners also merited a bit of the spotlight.

On Saturday, Luckarack improved his record to 3 for 3 with a victory in the Cavonnier.

On Sunday, Sourdough Sam, Northern California’s best 2-year-old last year, made his 2010 debut after a shin injury, beating older in a special allowance race at five furlongs on the turf.

The biggest highlight was Baze’s milestone victory, an 11-length victory aboard the Richard Mandella-trained first-time starter Separate Forest in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden event in Saturday’s fourth race.

“Russell Baze’s wine glass overfloweth with a magnum of winners,” said track announcer Michael Wrona, in keeping with the theme of the wine country area where the track is located.

Wrona has been the right man in the right spot, calling Cigar’s 16th straight victory to tie Citation’s record at Arlington Park in 1996. He also called Laffit Pincay’s winning ride when he surpassed Bill Shoemaker’s victory total and Baze’s ride when he surpassed Pincay.

“A Hall of Fame jockey is getting No. 11,000 for a Hall of Fame trainer,” said Wrona as Separate Forest took an insurmountable lead. Separate Forest was not Baze’s first milestone winner at Santa Rosa. He won his 5,000th race there with Cyrus Says in 1995.

Baze also got his 7,000th victory aboard the aptly named This Is the Moment at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton.

“I just hope people will remember I tried hard on all of them,” Baze has said in trying to best describe his career. “Whether it was a stakes race or claiming, I rode hard every time.”

At age 52, Baze is remarkably healthy and retains the inner fire and desire to win. He believes 12,000 victories is a goal within reach.

But equally important is his perspective that allowed him to joke after being blanked Sunday that he’s still looking for win 11,001.

Luckarack wins third straight

Despite a last-minute rider change to Catalino Martinez, the Steve Specht-trained Luckarack scored his third straight win in the six-furlong Cavonnier. Luckarack, a homebred racing for Mr. and Mrs. Larry Williams, also won the Everett Nevin at Pleasanton.

Luckarack is sire Lucky Pulpit’s first winner and first stakes winner. He’s out of the Dehere mare Tamarack Bay, whose only other foal is Raspberry Tart, a six-figure earner.

Specht’s long-range goal is the Cal Cup Juvenile. For that reason, he’s opting to run Luckarack in the 1 1/16-mile Angel Island on Sept. 11 at Golden Gate Fields after considering the six-furlong I’m Smoking for California-breds at Del Mar on Sept. 6.

“He’s not a bad horse. He’s ratable. He’ll go as far as you want him to go,” said Specht, who also trains Lady Railrider and Antares World for the Williamses.

Specht said he was a “little worried” when Luckarack was boxed in around the turn, but Martinez patiently waited, shifted out into the clear and was basically unchallenged in the lane.

“He gets to gawking around in the lane,” said Specht of his 2-year-old star, who did run a bit erratically when he first burst into the lead but quickly straightened out.

“We’ve got little issues dealing with him at the barn,” Specht said of the eager colt. “On the track, he’s a pro.”

The Cavonnier runner-up, King Cola, finished well and will also be pointed to the Angel Island, said trainer Dennis Patterson, who, while naturally disappointed not to win, was pleased with his colt’s effort.

“He ran good, but you’re always hoping to win,” said Patterson. “That’s a strong, good-looking colt,” he saidof Luckarack. “He had some advantages, more speed and a couple strong works over the track.”

King Cola shipped for the first time and handled that fine. He also had a lot of dirt kicked in his face, something he’s not used to, because there is not much kickback on Golden Gate Fields’ Tapeta surface.

Still he fired in the lane continuing what is his style to sit back early and unleash a strong kick late that has Patterson looking forward to the chance to route him.

Sourdough Sam back with a bang

Surprisingly, Sourdough Sam was the third choice in a five-furlong turf sprint that was his comeback to racing. Maybe it was the long layoff since his Dec. 12, 2009, victory in the one-mile Gold Rush or the fact he was facing older or was running on the turf for the first time.

“When you’re away, people forget,” trainer Dean Pederson said. “Fortunately, the horse didn’t forget. That’s the important thing.”

Sourdough Sam was ninth early, but in the lane when jockey Chad Schvaneveldt saw an opening and tapped the 3-year-old gelding on the shoulder, he “was like Superman coming out of a phone booth,” said Pederson.

Owned and bred by John Nicoletti, Sourdough Sam went to the sidelines last January with a shin problem that didn’t require surgery. Sourdough Sam never left Pederson’s barn, and Pederson carefully nursed him back to health.

Ferndale stands alone

The Humboldt County Fair in Ferndale gets its first week as the only racing venue in Northern California this week but has only two Thoroughbred races among its six races Wednesday.

After a strong opening three-day weekend with field size averaging well over six, racing secretary Tom Doutrich could field only six-race cards on Wednesday and Thursday. He’s back to eight races Friday, including six Thoroughbred races and is hopeful of strong cards closing weekend which will feature the 1 5/8-mile Humboldt County Marathon.

◗ A great jockey’s race is brewing at Ferndale where James Wooten, who missed the jockey title by one win last year, scored four wins Sunday to take the early lead over Chris Russell.