11/14/2003 12:00AM

Jockey Baze nears 400 wins - again


ALBANY, Calif. - Fans at Golden Gate Fields could see jockey Russell Baze reach a milestone Sunday.

Going into Friday's card, Baze has 394 victories this year and is trying to reach 400 victories for the 11th time in the past 12 years. He had seven mounts each on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

"It's a milestone every year," said Baze of the 400 wins mark. "It looks like I'll do it by the end of the week, not the end of the year."

Baze is fourth on the all-time list for career victories by a jockey, behind Laffit Pincay Jr., Bill Shoemaker, and Pat Day, and could be second on the list within two years.

As often as he's reached 400, he recognizes the significance of the feat.

"I realize how difficult it is to win 400," he said. "To string this many together, I've been blessed."

Besides Baze, only Edgar Prado has three straight 400-win years. Prado did it from 1997-99, when he won 535, 470, and 402.

Baze has led the nation in wins seven times and has won the Isaac Murphy Award, given to the nation's leading percentage rider, every year since the award's inception in 1995. Baze missed 400 only in 1999, when he missed more than one month with a back injury. He won 373 races that year.

Baze will be aboard probable favorite Que Facil Corazon in Sunday's feature, a $50,000 optional claimer at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. Five of Baze's victories this year have come aboard Que Facil Corazon, a 5-year-old mare who has won 6 of 12 starts this year, including victories on turf and dirt.

Que Facil Corazon's stablemate Gods Ear may be her toughest competition, along with Chautauqua, who just finished second in a similar spot at Bay Meadows.

There are no front-runners in the field, but Que Facil Corazon, who drew the rail, might be able to take the lead and control the pace.

Baze's other mounts Sunday are Cardinal and Gold, just claimed from a runner-up effort, in the first; first-timer Holy R.N. in the third; He's a Natural, dropping off a victory, in the fourth; Wendy Darling, dropping back to the claiming level of her lone victory, in the fifth; Excaper, going for his third straight win, in the seventh; and Destined to Win, who just won a maiden race by 10 lengths, in the ninth.

* Brothers Victor and Alfredo Miranda and Chance Rollins were given three-day suspensions for failing to maintain a straight path leaving the starting gate in Thursday's eighth race. Both Mirandas will be suspended Wednesday through Friday. Rollins will serve his suspension Friday through Sunday.