08/14/2010 5:54PM

Baze rides 11,000th winner

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Vassar Photography
Russsell Baze is all smiles after winning his 11,000th career race at Santa Rosa on Saturday.

Jockey Russell Baze became the first rider in history to score 11,000 victories when he guided first-timer starter Separate Forest to an 11-length victory in a maiden race at the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Saturday.

“I knew right away we were going to win,” Baze said. “She broke nicely, and I was just sitting there. When I asked her to run, she took off, and I tried to listen to [track announcer] Michael Wrona's call down the stretch. All I had to do was chirp at her.”

Baze said he feels great physically and said, “I'm going to keep chipping away. I don't think 12,000 is out of reach.”

As he guided Separate Forest back to the winner's circle, Baze had time for reflection.

“I thought of all the horsemen that have supported me through the years. If they hadn't put me on the kind of mounts they did, I wouldn't be here.”

The win was much different than his 10,000th on Feb. 1, 2008, when he won a three-way photo aboard Two Step Cat, having to wait five minutes before the race result was declared official.

“This is a milestone, but it's not the last milestone,” Baze declared that day.

The 52-year-old Hall of Fame jockey has celebrated a number of milestone victories, but none more significant than on Dec. 1, 2006, when he rode his 9,531st winner, Butterfly Belle at Bay Meadows, to surpass the all-time record for wins held by Laffit Pincay Jr.

Baze, inducted into racing's Hall of Fame in 1999, has recorded 400 victories in a year 13 times. No other jockey riding in the United States has accomplished the feat more than three times.

After his fourth straight 400-victory year in 1995, Baze received a special Eclipse Award.

He scored 400 wins every year from 1992-2003, with the exception of 1999, when he was sidelined with an injury. He has scored 400 victories the past two years.

The son of jockey Joe Baze, he scored his first victory riding a horse trained by his father at Yakima Downs in 1974.

Baze received the George Woolf Award at Santa Anita in 2002 and has won the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Isaac Murphy Award as the nation's winningest rider every year since the award began in 1995, with the exception of 2004.

After passing Pincay, Baze was passed by Brazilian jockey Jorge Ricardo, who became the first rider to reach 10,000 victories. But Baze passed Ricardo on May 16, 2009 after Ricardo was injured in a bad spill. Baze and Ricardo competed against each other only once in a special series of races Ascot in 2008.

Separate Forest, a 3-year-old Forestry filly out of Separata, is owned by the Diamond A Racing Corporation and trained by Richard Mandella, who sent her north for her debut.

Separate Forest sat behind Ocean Hawk through fast early fractions but opened up in the lane and pulled clear under a hand ride to the cheers of the crowd. The favorite, she paid $5.40.

“It made me feel real good to do something like that in front of such an enthusiastic crowd,” said Baze, who doffed his riding helmet to acknowledge the standing ovation he received.

Baze and his wife, Tami, have three daughters, Trinity, Brandi, and Cassie, and a son, Gable.

Jockey Russell Baze became the first rider in history to score 11,000 victories when he guided first-timer starter Separate Forest to an 11-length victory in a maiden race at the Sonoma County Fair on Saturday.

The win was much different than his 10,000th on Feb. 1, 2008, when he won a three-way photo aboard Two Step Cat, having to wait five minutes before the race result was declared official.

“This is a milestone, but it's not the last milestone,” Baze declared that day.

The Hall of Fame jockey has celebrated a number of milestone victories, but none more significant than on Dec. 1, 2006, when he rode his 9,531st winner, Butterfly Belle at Bay Meadows, to surpass the all-time record for wins held by Laffit Pincay Jr.

After passing Pincay, Baze was passed by Brazilian jockey Jorge Ricardo, who became the first rider to reach 10,000 victories. But Baze has since passed Ricardo, who was injured in a bad spill after he and Baze met and competed for the first time at Ascot in 2008.

Separate Forest, a 3-year-old Forestry filly out of Separata, is owned by the Diamond A Racing Corporation and trained by Richard Mandella, who sent her north for her debut.

Separate Forest trailed Ocean Hawk through fast early fractions but opened up in the lane and pulled clear under a hand ride to the cheers of the crowd. The favorite, she paid $5.40.