Updated on 09/16/2011 9:50AM

A trip down record-book lane


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - At one time or another, since 1908, the record for single-season earnings by a jockey has been held by Joe Notter, Earl Sande, Johnny Longden, Ted Atkinson, Doug Dodson, Eddie Arcaro, Bill Shoemaker, Bill Hartack, Braulio Baeza, Laffit Pincay Jr., Angel Cordero, Steve Cauthen, Darrel McHargue, Chris McCarron, Jose Santos, Mike Smith, Gary Stevens, and currently, Jerry Bailey.

During the same period of time, the record for single-season earnings for a trainer has been held by James Rowe, Sam Hildreth, Jim Fitzsimmons, Ben Jones, Jimmy Jones, Bill Winfrey, Eddie Neloy, Jack Van Berg, Lazaro Barrera, Charlie Whittingham, Wayne Lukas and soon, unless he runs away to join a circus, Bobby Frankel.

Good company, to be sure. And yes, records are made to be broken. But a record that is broken so often can hardly be worshiped as a special sort of benchmark. And if the name of the record-holder - and hopefully the number as well - does not quickly come to mind, then the record is either bogus or boring. Besides, money records are forever boring, except to the person making the money.

So congratulations to Bailey and, if he makes it, to Frankel as well. Money is a very American measure, and they both embody the finest American virtues of hard work and consistency of performance at the highest levels. Still, it would be wise for them to remember the words of the artist-inventor Hobart Brown, who warned that "money doesn't always bring happiness - people with 10 million dollars are no happier than people with nine million dollars."

In the meantime, there are racing records that should be celebrated on a regular basis. When they are broken, or even threatened, the game should stop to pay homage. Wake me when one of these numbers starts to fall:

* Chris McCarron used to sport a license plate that read "CJ 546." Everybody knew what it meant. Of all his many accomplishments, he was proudest the longest of his record 546 winners compiled during the 1974 season.

Then, in 1989, Kent Desormeaux came along to win 598 and break McCarron's heart.

There is something comfortably finite about Desormeaux's mark. Records attached to the tangible, individual performances of jockeys have a solid feel, unlike the corresponding records for trainers. Jack Van Berg still owns that towering 496 winners during 1976, a testament to his skill in finding fast horses and hiring good people. Desormeaux, on the other hand, did not have assistant jockeys, riding winners elsewhere and accumulating credit for the boss.

* Every schoolkid has memorized the list of great stakes-winning geldings. Exterminator won 50 races, 34 of them stakes, from 1917 to 1924. Native Diver won 33 stakes, all in California between 1961 and 1967. Kelso and John Henry ended their long careers with 30 stakes apiece. Forego won 24.

But geldings exist in a twilight world of their own. Their opportunity to succeed is based upon a combination of health, soundness, and the humanitarian instincts of their caretakers. Commercial concerns are non-existent.

That is why the stakes-winning record that stands tallest of all was assembled by Round Table, who made his debut in February 1956 and raced until October 1959. Greeting every day as a stallion of great potential, with the attendant risks involved, Round Table won 31 stakes at the very top of the game.

It can still be done. The races are there, and it is neither unreasonable nor cruel to campaign a horse at 2, 3, 4, and 5. In fact, it would be downright entertaining.

* The racetrack wisdom goes something like this: You can't win if you don't show up. That's fair enough, but there is also a lot to be said for quality over quantity, which is why Bill Hartack's record in the Kentucky Derby sticks out like a rose among the statistical thorns.

Eddie Arcaro rode in the Derby 21 times and won five. Bill Shoemaker tried the Derby 26 times and won four. Isaac Murphy, the 19th-century star, won with three of his 11 Derby mounts, while Gary Stevens is 3 for 15 so far in more modern times.

They all take a backseat to Hartack's mark. From his first Derby mount in 1956 to his last one in 1974, Hartack rode in just 12, winning five. And were it not for an injury that kept him off Tim Tam in 1958, he probably would have been 6 for 13.

Finally, there is the record that racing fans are allowed to savor every time they settle in for an afternoon of live or simulcast sport. It is the most organic of records, hotly pursued and broken with joyous regularity. And every time it is broken, the crowd cheers.

As of 1 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 6, 2002, Laffit Pincay Jr. had won 9,473 races. Pat Day is chasing with 8,390, but at age 49 he may run out of steam. Russell Baze looms on the horizon, and that's Edgar Prado in the wings. Sure, they could all catch Pincay. If he ever stops to let them.