Jockey Baze closes in on Pincay record

November 30th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Jockey Baze closes in on Pincay record


Associated Press

SAN MATEO, Calif. - History awaits jockey Russell Baze, and he hopes he makes it sooner rather than later. Baze went 1-for-5 Wednesday to pull within one of tying Laffit Pincay Jr.'s record of 9,530 career victories.
He had six scheduled mounts Thursday at Bay Meadows, the minor-league track where he's spent most of his 32-year career booting home cheap horses.
Baze is eager to break the record, more for others than himself. His parents are in from Montana, his three grown daughters came up from Southern California, and Pincay was to spend his fourth day at the track Thursday waiting to crown his successor.
"I'd kind of like to cut short their anxiety as much as possible and get it over so they can get on about their business," Baze said.
Pincay set the record in December 1999 at Hollywood Park, then retired at 52 after injuring his neck in a 2003 riding accident.
"I think I'm more tired than you are," he told Baze on Wednesday.
With a few thousand fans watching, Baze finished fourth, second, last, last and first Wednesday.
"I've been having to ride my butt off to get these wins here lately," he said.
Baze needed a photo finish to win the eighth by a head aboard Sylvan Hill.
"I thought the racing gods were stomping on me," he said, dirt streaking his powder blue and white silks after the day's last race. "Fairly often, they don't run as well as you'd hope they would."
His mount in the seventh, Lugano, was scratched after breaking through the starting gate. Baze jumped over the back of the gate and wasn't injured.
"Our starting gate crew did an excellent job," he said. "They were waiting back there and it was like falling into a mosh pit. I never hit the ground. They caught me in mid-air and delivered me to a safe spot."
Several of Baze's mounts were heavily bet down by fans wanting souvenir $2 win tickets. Sylvan Hill went off as the 4-5 favorite in the $12,500 maiden claiming race, with $35,322 bet to win. The 4-year-old gelding paid $3.80 to win.
Baze, a 48-year-old Hall of Fame rider, is on the verge of breaking one of thoroughbred racing's most hallowed records.
"The pressure is not going out there trying to win, it's making the people wait," said Pincay, who needed seven mounts and a few days after tying Bill Shoemaker's record of 8,803 to finally break it on Dec. 10, 1999, at Hollywood Park. "You feel like you're letting everyone down."
Although the record will put his name alongside such greats as Pincay, Shoemaker and John Longden - three who have owned the mark - Baze is rarely mentioned in the same breath as those legends.
That's because most of his career has been spent in the San Francisco suburbs, far from racing's biggest stages in Southern California, New York, Kentucky and Florida.
He has never won a Triple Crown race and is 0-for-3 in the Breeders' Cup.
He tried the ultra-competitive Southern California circuit for three years in the late 1980s, when Pincay, Shoemaker, Chris McCarron and Eddie Delahoussaye dominated the jockeys' room.
But Baze's gaudy winning percentage that hovers around 26 dropped to barely 12. So he moved back north, making the Bay Area virtually a one-rider town. He typically rides a handful of favorites most race days.
The record would represent the crown jewel of a 32-year career that includes election to thoroughbred racing's Hall of Fame and consistent results year after year.
He has won at least 400 races in 11 of the last 14 years. His 349 winners this year rank him third in the nation.

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