05/18/2011 1:24PM

Pimlico: Former jockeys back for Lady Legends for the Cure


BALTIMORE – Patti Cooksey and Andrea Seefeldt own a special place in Pimlico history as the only two women to ride in the Preakness. Last year, they had roles in another part of track lore when they rode in the inaugural Lady Legends for the Cure on Preakness eve.

Cooksey, Seefeldt, and five of the other six retired female jockeys who rode in the highly successful Lady Legends event will be back Friday. The $31,000, six-furlong allowance offers parimutuel wagering as the seventh of 13 races. It will also serve to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer research.

Cooksey, 53, rode Tajawa to a sixth-place finish in the 1985 Preakness. She is a breast cancer survivor, as is Mary Wiley-Wagner, a 47-year-old mother of two who is named on Miss Destruction, the 9-5 morning-line favorite.

“It’s great to be able to give back and set the example for my children that sometimes life kicks you in the butt, but we get up and use it as a learning experience and do what we can with it,” said Wiley-Wagner, who rode mostly on the Maryland circuit.

Seefeldt, also a longtime Maryland regular, finished seventh aboard Looming in the Preakness in 1994, the same year she retired. Her mount in the 2010 Lady Legends ran second.

“It was a lot easier to get fit this year than it was last year, going from a 16-year layoff to just a year layoff,” said Seefeldt, 48. “I’ve known most of the girls and ridden with most of them, so it was great to catch up with them again. It was great to ride with Barbara Jo Rubin, one of my idols. Most of us have known someone that’s had breast cancer. It’s all for a good cause, and that’s what we’re doing it for.”

Rubin, now 61, was the first woman to win a parimutuel race in the United States, doing so at Charles Town in February 1969. She is back for the Lady Legends again this year.

New this year is Abby Fuller, 52, the first female jockey to sweep the New York filly Triple Crown; she did it in 1985 with Mom’s Command, bred and owned by her father, Peter Fuller.

The other jockeys participating Friday are Mary Russ-Tortora, 57, the first female to win a Grade 1 stakes race; Cheryl White, 57, the first African-American female rider; and Jennifer Rowland Small, 58, the top pioneer female rider in Maryland in the 1970s.

An also-eligibles list will be in use in case a horse needs to scratch, allowing all eight women to participate.

Gwen Jocson won the inaugural Lady Legends race last year. Jocson tore ligaments in her hand while exercising this winter but plans to be here Friday.

Once again, Pimlico will match the amount of win wagers on the race winner with a contribution to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, the internationally prominent breast cancer foundation.