Without ceremony, Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze walked off the racetrack Sunday and into retirement.
Alerting only family members of his plan, the world’s all-time winningest jockey called it a career at Golden Gate Fields after the 10th race on the meet’s closing day. His final ride, Wahine Warrior, finished second.
“He’s retired – and so am I,” said Ray Harris, Baze’s longtime agent. “We’ve been together a long time, longer than any other jockey and agent, since 1979.”
Baze, who turns 58 on Aug. 7, had 12,842 wins, 9,600 second-place finishes and 7,855 thirds in 53,578 races while riding almost exclusively in Northern California. His mounts earned more than $199.3 million.
Baze wasn’t available for comment.
12,842Victories by Russell Baze
53,578Number of races
“He can do whatever he wants now – he’s retired,” said Harris.
Baze, inducted into racing’s National Hall of Fame in 1999, had recently returned after breaking his right collarbone April 16 in a fall at Golden Gate. Despite missing five weeks, he won 30 races after returning from the injury and the Golden Gate riding title, his 54th at the Albany track. He rode three winners Saturday, including the Albany Stakes aboard Chips All In in the final stakes race of the spring meet.
“His family wanted him to retire after that (injury),” Harris said. “He said he wanted another Golden Gate title and to go out a winner. That’s what he did, like walking off after a championship. To miss that much time and still win the riding title … that’s pretty good.”
Baze and his wife, Tami, have three daughters – Trinity, Brandi and Cassie – and one son, Gable. Trinity is married to jockey Kyle Kaenel.
Harris said he was surprised but not shocked by Baze’s sudden retirement. His own pending retirement likely prompted the rider’s decision.
“Russell kept it a secret; he only told his family,” Harris said. “I should have figured it out. His family was showing up at the track every day (this past week). But I told him I was retiring as soon as my house was sold, and it’s about to sell. I’m moving to Arizona.”
Baze also won 40 riding championships at Bay Meadows before it closed in 2008. Baze, a native of Vancouver, British Columbia, rode more than 400 winners in one year 13 times; no other jockey has done that more than three times. Renowned for his strong riding style, “Russell the Muscle” also led North American riders in victories 13 years, most recently in 2014 with 324.
Baze became the sport’s all-time leading rider Dec. 1, 2006, when he surpassed Laffit Pincay Jr.’s 9,350 wins.
“He’s a hard worker and pretty smart,” Harris said. “He understands horses and people, and gets along with both. I’m really happy he retired (healthy) and not because he had to retire (due to injury). It’s a tough life; you hit the ground a lot when you’re a jockey.”