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HRN Original Blog:
Bay Area Backstretch

Golden Gate Fields and Russell Baze

Ok racing fans, here’s a quiz. No asking your neighbor and no looking in a book.


Where is Golden Gate Fields located??


I’m waiting……..


What was that? San Francisco? Ohh you are sooooo close.
Let me give you a hint. It borders a large body of water. I know you have heard “where the surf meets the turf“ but have you heard “where the bay comes to play” ?


Give up? Golden Gate Fields is in Albany. Yes there is an Albany in California too.


Nestled in the San Francisco bay area I can’t really blame you if you haven’t heard too much about it. After all, pretty much every racing fan has heard of the big three in California; Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar, but Golden Gate? Ehh not as much.
But you know, Golden Gate does have its own history.


Did you know that a 19-year-old Bill Shoemaker won his first career race on a horse name Shafter V in 1949 at Golden Gate Fields?


How about the series of races that Noor and Citation had in the late 1950’s right here. Steve Cauthen rode in the California Derby in 1977 and remember Robyn Smith? She was the first female to ride a race in Northern California and it all happened, yes, right here. In fact, the ever popular Silky Sullivan is buried in the infield at Golden Gate Fields.

We’ve had our great horses too. Remember Pike Place Dancer and Soviet Problem? ‘Dancer won the Kentucky Oaks in 1996 and ‘Problem was second in the Breeders Cup Sprint in 1994 losing by a head. Both were from Golden Gate Fields.


So now you know a little of our past history. But did you know we have current history going on right now?


Russell Baze has won 11,161 races in his career which is number one in the history of the sport. He passed Laffit Pincay Jr. in December of 2006 and at the age of 52, is still going strong and still adding to that total.


“I enjoy working horses in the morning and I enjoy riding races in the afternoon,” Baze said “I’m just a competitive guy. I don’t care if they were running for hamburgers. I’d want to win that hamburger.”

Already a member of the National Thoroughbred Hall of Fame, the Washington Horse Racing Hall of Fame and the Thoroughbred Breeders Association Hall of Fame, he is now set to be inducted into the Multi-Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame, in nearby Oakland on February 25th. His induction class includes NBA great Rick Barry and NFL great Y.A. Tittle.

It’s yet another honor for a man that seems to turn back time.

“It’s always nice to be recognized for you’re accomplishments,” Baze said. “I’m going in with some great superstars.”


Baze’s accomplishments would take hours to list. In highlighting a few, he won 400 races in a year 13 times, he led the nation in wins 11 times and has won the Isaac Murphy Award (for highest win percentage of at least 500 mounts in a year) 15 times. He was also the first jockey in North America to win 10,000 races. (South American based Jorge Ricardo was the first).

He has won 39 riding titles and over 4,000 races at Golden Gate Fields.


At a time when most people are looking to set a retirement date, Baze will have none of that kind of thinking.


“I’m only 52, I’m not really thinking about it,” Baze said. “People ask me ‘how much longer are you going to ride,’ I’m like, it doesn’t even enter my mind. This is what I do. I’m healthy, I’m riding good horses. Why would I think of quitting.”


Despite all his success, he does still have that elusive goal, one every jockey has.

“It’s been my goal all along, to win the Derby or a Breeders Cup race,” he said. “With each new crop of two year-olds you’re looking for that good horse. You’re always on the lookout for a horse that’s going to take you to the big races with a chance to win.”

Long time Golden Gate publicist Sam Spear likened Baze to a champion in any sport saying “Russell is as determined to win a race as Pete Rose was to getting a hit,”

It’s that determination that brings him to the winners circle more than anyone else.

 

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Older Comments about Golden Gate Fields and Russell Baze...

Thanks for reading and adding your insight guys. I had a lot more info from Russell but the blog ran long as it is. I think we are all fortuante to be seeing Mr. Baze at his best.
When you evaluate a new race track to follow you have to find out two things; 1) does my way of handicapping work here often enough to follow it regularly and 2) probably more important, does this track offer me the prices that will allow me to make a long term profit? GGF pases the first and fails the second test miserably.
Golden Gate Fields is located in Albany, Ca. It's could really be a gem if someone where to dump millions of dollars into. It sits right on the San Francisco Bay. It houses one of the nicest turf courses in America, appropriately named the Longden Turf after the great jockey Johnny Longden. Perhaps someday they rename it after Russell Baze. Before Bay Meadows Racecourse was demolished several years ago, many of the handicappers and fans including myself would call it Baze Meadows. Not only is Russell a hall of fame jockey but he is also a class act and one of the friendliest people you will ever meet. GGF Fields is the only running track in Nothern California besides the fair circuit which runs in the summertime. Lost In The Fog is by far the best horse I've ever seen run at GG Fields. And that includes a list of champions such as Soviet Problem, Work the Crowd, Event of the Year, and one of my all-time favorites a claimer who climbed the ranks and one five graded races in a row, and also won the G1 Hollywood Gold Cup with Gary Stevens aboard, his name, Slew of Damascus.
  • TheCapt · The turf course is awesome. Russell is a class act and always willing to talk to the fans. · 1281 days ago
This palce was built on the grounds of an old reservation burial ground. The first season was a debacle as rains and a poorly draining track combined to create almost a quick sand that snapped many a leg before they LUCKILY closed due to the war starting. It is closest really to Richmond but is within the city limits of Berkley. Sitting out on a prominance along the east side of San Francisco Bay, it is a nice atmosphere for racing. Too bad California racing is in shambles as the Northern part of the state used to have a strong rivalry with the south and many a very good one would come up to try to steal the big stakes as well as Longacres horses coming down in the Winter/Spring meeting. Baze is a phenom. I asked him about Lost in the Fog this last October, asking did he or the trainer have any idea about his problems (cancer which later casued his death after a long undefeated string) and he informed me that he was off on the rear a bit before the diagnosis. Nice fellow
  • TheCapt · Good knowledge, and you probably know it re-opened in 1947. Lost in the fog was one of the great horses the track has seen and holds a special place in Russell's heart · 1281 days ago
Strrange thing happened in their clubhouse. I was collecting totes to trade with others around the country and upon finding a group of $100 tickets I scooped them up. SOme yokel claimed that they BELONGED to the racing commission and I explained that common trash on the floor just like a wrapper from a hot dog is trash. He must have just lost a big bet or something as he said he would get me ruled off if I picked up any more the racing commissions property. I wrote the California Horse Racing Board and they agreed with me. Carried that letter with me the next few visits but never saw the idiot again .
then you never saw Hap Logue deemed the poor man`s Secretariat who won 13 in a row in stater allowances at Bay Meadows.

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Meet Don August

I have been involved in horse racing, from a fan to sportswriter, for the past 30 years. The first time my dad took me to the track, I picked a horse named "Black Tornado" and when he won, I was hooked.  From then on, I spent weekends and occasional school days at the race track, and my enjoyment of the sport led me to try my hand at being a jockey agent, which i did for 3 years. When that didn't work out as I had hoped, I concentrated on my writing career by covering big races and doing summer fair handicapping, off and on, for the Contra Costa Times.

Today, I stay involved in the sport by being part of a group that currently owns two horses stabled at Golden Gate Fields. As all owners, we have dreams of someday having that special horse.  Besides writing about horse racing I enjoy covering many sports and have had the honor of meeting and writing about some incredible athletes.