Jocky Russel Baze 50,000 rides and counting

50,000 … and Counting

Trinity Kaenel, the oldest of Baze’s three daughters, came to watch her dad ride in No. 50,000. When she got married, her husband, Kyle Kaenel, was an enormously promising young jockey. She was watching him in a race on TV, their baby in her arms, when he took the spill that busted up his shoulder and back and ended his riding career. For him, it was Race No. 4,345.

Kyle frequently rode against his father-in-law. He said he had never met anyone so competitive: “If Russell wins one, he wants another. If he has two, he wants three and if he has three, he wants four.” Family gatherings tended to include contests. Who can do the most pull-ups and handstands?

That afternoon, things were going Baze’s way. He won the first three races. “It looks like an easy game today,” he said after dismounting in the third. He hummed as he walked, nothing particularly tuneful, just an intonation of joy.

But then he finished fourth in the next race and lost by a head in the fifth. That last horse, Bi Tomorrow, was an ornery cuss. Before the race, he kept champing on the pony rider assigned to escort it to the gate. Baze, attempting to control the horse, ended up with blood on his white pants.

The sixth race was the anticipated No. 50,000. A few reporters gathered in the jockey’s room, hoping perhaps for an unusual gush of sentiment from a habitually restrained man. Baze did not oblige. “My one concession is I’m changing out of my dirty jockey pants,” he said with a toothy smile.