Horse Racing: 8 riders who took racing to new heights.
WHEN Russell Baze scored the 9,531st victory of his career, he became only the eighth holder in 120 years of the world record for the most wins in a career by a jockey.
Since 1886 the record has passed in turn from George Fordham to Fred Archer, Sam Heapy, Sir Gordon Richards, John Longden, Bill Shoemaker, Laffit Pincay, and now Baze.
That list reflects the changing balance of power in world racing, with Britain the dominant nation until surpassed by the US in the second half of the 20th century.
The eight record-holders include six of the greatest jockeys in the history of the sport. The misfits in this company are Heapy and Baze, both big fish in small ponds - Belgium and northern California.
Greatness is about quality, not quantity. In search of the former, Baze moved to southern California in 1988 and rode regularly for a while against Shoemaker and Pincay, having already beaten them when scoring his first Grade 1 victory, on Both Ends Burning in the 1984 Oak Tree Invitational. However, he retreated to his cocoon in northern California in 1991.
Since then Baze has dominated the national standings in races won, but he has never been remotely in contention for the all-important financial title. Last year was typical, for, among all jockeys in North America, he ranked first in wins (375) but only 21st in prize-money ($7,300,789).
However, Baze, like all the other world record-holders since Fred Archer's suicide, has shown remarkable consistency, durability and self-discipline to ride to a high standard, day in, day out, over several decades.
George Fordham (1837-87) The first rider who can be identified as the world's winningmost jockey, George Fordham was the only one of Fred Archer's rivals capable of holding his own against him, and indeed was champion more often - 14 times between 1855 and 1871, with a best tally of 166 wins in 1862.
He won a total of 2,587 races, including 16 Classics, three of them on Formosa in 1868, but only one Derby - on Sir Bevys in 1879. He rode a record seven 1,000 Guineas winners including Mayonaise, who set a Classic record when triumphing by 20 lengths in 1859.
This instinctive jockey was unusual for that era in being honest, and in using finesse rather than brute force.
Fred Archer (1857-86) The most romantic and tragic figure of his time on the Turf, Fred Archer had a tally of 2,748 wins in only 17 seasons (1870-86), at a strike-rate of 34 per cent.
He was champion jockey in each of his last 13 seasons, with a peak score of 246 in 1885. He rode the winners of 21 Classics, including the Derby and St Leger of 1886 on mighty Ormonde, and his five Derby winners also included Bend Or.
His style was not pretty, as he was often active with whip and spur, and displayed a ruthless will to win that made him a public idol. However, he was already losing his battle against the scales when he committed suicide.
Sam Heapy (1882-1963) The most obscure of all these record-breakers, Sam Heapy spent most of his career in Belgium. Born in Derby, he was the nephew of champion jockeys Sam and Tommy Loates, and rode his first winner at Liverpool in 1899.
The following year, Heapy moved to Belgium, where he became a big fish in a small pond, and he trained many of his winners himself. Among his mounts was Equit, who won the Grand Prix d'Ostende in 1911 with British champion sprinter Hornet's Beauty unplaced.
Sir Gordon Richards (1904-86) Gordon Richards broke Sam Heapy's world record in 1947, and although his final score of 4,870 (1921-54) was surpassed by John Longden in 1956, it may never be beaten as a British record.
His other records include 26 championships between 1925 and 1953, 12 double centuries, 269 wins in one Flat season (1947) and 12 wins in succession (1933). He won the fillies' Triple Crown on Sun Chariot, the 2,000 Guineas by a record margin on Tudor Minstrel, and many top sprints on Abernant.
In Coronation week, 1953, he became the only jockey ever to receive a knighthood and, at his 28th and final attempt, won the Derby on Pinza.
John Longden (1907-2003) Born in Wakefield, John Longden is still the most successful British-born jockey of all time, but was five when his family emigrated.
His best mount was Triple Crown hero Count Fleet, who proved invincible in 1943 when taking the Kentucky Derby by three lengths, the Preakness by eight and the Belmont by 25. He was North America's leading jockey twice in money earned and three times in races won between 1938 and 1948.
He beat Sir Gordon Richards' world record en route to his best seasonal score of 320 wins in 1956, and retired after his 6,032nd victory in 1966.
Bill Shoemaker (1931-2003) In a career spanning six decades (1949-90), Bill Shoemaker won 8,833 races and was the world's winningmost jockey from 1970, when he beat John Longden's record, until 1999.
Between 1950 and 1964, this tiny Texan with a light touch was champion in North America a record ten times in money earned and five times in races won, with a then-record 485 victories in 1953.
He won the Kentucky Derby four times, the Preakness twice and the Belmont five times, and was the regular rider of nine Horses of the Year - Swaps, Round Table, Sword Dancer, Damascus, Ack Ack, Forego, Spectacular Bid (his greatest mount), John Henry and Ferdinand (1987 Breeders' Cup Classic).
Laffit Pincay (b. 1946) Having started his career in his native Panama in 1964, Laffit Pincay moved to the US in 1966. He won the Kentucky Derby on Swale (1984) and the Belmont Stakes three times, and took seven Breeders' Cup races, but the best horse he ever rode was Affirmed, on whom he won seven consecutive races in 1979.
He was North America's leading jockey seven times in money earned and once in races won between 1970 and 1985, with a peak score of 420 in 1979. He broke his friend Bill Shoemaker's world record in 1999.
In contrast to Shoemaker, Pincay's main attribute was his strength, and he employed tremendous self-discipline to keep his body far below its natural weight.
Russell Baze (b. 1958) The new record-holder started his career in 1974, when Jack Nicklaus and Jimmy Connors were at the height of their powers, and is still going strong in the era of Tiger Woods and Roger Federer.
Being the perennial leading rider at Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields will never make him a great jockey, but it has made him North America's champion (in races won) a record eight times in the last 14 years, with a peak of 448 wins in 1995.
He has ridden only four Grade 1 winners in his career, including his sole champion, Lost In The Fog, last year's top sprinter.
Russell Baze and his predecessors (clockwise from left) Fred Archer, Laffit Pincay, Bill Shoemaker and Sir Gordon Richards
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|Publication:||The Racing Post (London, England)|
|Date:||Dec 5, 2006|
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