Vicky BAZE rode Southern Alliance to victory in the seventh race to make history Sunday afternoon at Assiniboia Downs.
Almost immediately afterward, she and her jockey husband Gary jumped into their motorhome and rode off into the sunset for Phoenix and Turf Paradise, where they'll continue racing throughout the winter.
Finishing the season with 71 victories, Baze became the first woman in the 52-year history of the Downs to capture the leading jockey title, wresting it from Janine Stianson, who was second with 67 wins and Larren Delorme, who had 66.
Heading into Sunday's final day of action, Baze led the standings with 69, Stianson had 67 and Delorme had 66.
Delorme, who had lost ground due to a six-day suspension earlier this fall, had mounted a challenge Saturday when he rode three winners, drawing him within three wins of Baze. Early Sunday he picked up a pair of wins, on Furious George in the second and Lord Showa in the third, as he continued his late charge. But the well ran dry.
Baze picked up a win on Ecton's Gem in the fifth and Southern Alliance carried her to her title in the seventh.
No Replay took second and Caleb Boy finished third.
Oddly enough, Stianson, who battled Baze neck-and-neck throughout the season, was shut out of the winner's circle yesterday.
Baze, who maintained from the start that winning the title was not as important to her as everyone having a good season and staying healthy, was true to form in the winner's circle. "Actually I was hoping that we'd all tie, and all three of us would be standing here with this big old horse trophy. I think it was really great to have everybody in the hunt the whole way."
When she and Gary came on the scene in the spring of 2009, her Washington Hall of Fame husband was the main attraction, even though she had garnered her share of jockey titles (four in Washington State), and was listed as one of the top five female jockeys in North America.
Unable to ride due to a foreign jockey quota, she didn't actually race until late in the season that year, when Gary dropped out due to injury. Regardless, she managed to win 39 races and finish sixth.
This year, with a full season of races under her belt and the jockey title under her arm, Baze seemed a little sad to be leaving. "Frankly I feel very blessed," she said. "Everybody made me feel at home here. I thank the fans who stuck with us all summer, were very involved and just cheered us on."
The race for leading trainer was nowhere near as tight as the jockey derby. Tom Gardipy Jr., who picked up three wins Sunday with In The Other (Tyrone Nelson), Lord Showa (Delorme) and Rage Till Dawn (Nelson), finished with 48 wins to successfully defend the title he shared with Carl Anderson last year. Anderson, who missed 15 days due to a suspension earlier this month, fell behind and never caught up. He finished second with 36 wins while Ardell Sayler was third with 31.
Baze had hoped to take October off, but she's back in the saddle on Friday at Turf Paradise.
"Yeah, it looks like I'm not going to get any time off from racing. I ride opening day on Friday, so I'll be driving 2,200 miles and have just enough time to go to the jocks room and saddle up," she said.
"They race five days a week all winter long with a six-day week thrown in once a month. I know it sounds like a lot of riding, but it will be nice to be back in our little home again."
Overall it was a good year for the Downs as well. On-track wagering went up by six per cent on a race-to-race basis with last year. And, combined with bets from fans in other parts of North America, wagering declined only slightly, by .04 per cent. The total amount wagered was $8.9 million. Overall, there was a 7.8 per cent decline in wagering in the U.S. over the past year.
Track director of operations Darren Dunn said the reason the Downs is bucking industry trends is, "highly competitive racing thanks to good-quality horses and a trainer and jockey colony with exceptional depth." He also credited "innovative promotions."