Although it took a little longer than expected, jockey Russell Baze became the world's winningest rider Friday when favored Butterfly Belle won the fourth race at Bay Meadows.
The victory was the 9,531st of Baze's career, enabling him to surpass Laffit Pincay, who had held the top spot since Dec. 10, 1999.
Pincay, who retired in the spring of 2003, rode Irish Nip to victory that day at Hollywood Park, overtaking Bill Shoemaker with his 8,834th win.
After missing with his first three mounts Friday, Baze recorded the historic victory with a rail-skimming rally on Butterfly Belle, a 4-year-old Wavering Monarch filly owned by James Pitzer and trained by Mark Glatt, in the $12,500 claimer at five furlongs on turf.
In a winner's circle ceremony that included Pincay, who had spent nearly a week in the Bay Area awaiting the inevitable, Baze's wife Tami and their four children, his mother and father, former jockey and trainer Joe Baze, longtime agent Ray Harris, fellow jockeys and numerous others, Baze had trouble being heard. It wasn't because he was overcome with emotion.
Rather, there were microphone issues, a problem that also surfaced when Baze, who embraced and shook hands with Pincay after dismounting, was being introduced by master of ceremonies Kurt Hoover.
"Who would have thought, 32 years ago, a skinny little kid with no experience would be standing here today," said Baze, who won his first race at Yakima Meadows in 1974, riding Oregon Warrior to victory for his father.
"I'd like to thank Laffit for being here. I know there was one person who was pulling for me the last couple of days. He has been extremely gracious and supportive."
Presented with a European vacation for him and his wife by officials from Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows, Baze was also saluted by jockey Joe Castro.
"I've learned a lot from Russell," Castro said, speaking for the other Bay Area riders. "I don't care where you are doing it, you have to be doing something right to win that many races. Congratulations and keep doing what you are doing, but not too much longer because we need to make a living too."
\o7Mieszerski reported from Los Angeles.