05/16/2012 12:07PM

Pimlico: Lady Legends once again raising funds, awareness


BALTIMORE – The ladies’ day theme coinciding with the Kentucky Oaks has proven wildly popular at Churchill Downs, and Pimlico is proving it’s a concept worth imitating, albeit in a somewhat different form. This will be the third year that the Lady Legends for the Cure for retired female jockeys will be run as a parimutuel race on Preakness eve, and once again the participants are champing at the proverbial bit.

“I’m very excited,” said Mary Wiley-Wagner, who won the Lady Legends last year aboard Miss Destruction. “It looks like it’s going to be a really, really good race.”

Aside from the Lady Legends, which is carded as the fourth of 13 Friday races, Pimlico also is offering a jockey-challenge wager involving active female jockeys, while five of the seven stakes are for 3-year-old fillies or older fillies and mares, including the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes. The day serves to heighten awareness and raise funds for breast-cancer research.

Twelve horses are entered in the Lady Legends, a $45,000, six-furlong race being run under a first-level allowance condition, but only eight will run, leaving a four-horse also-eligible list essentially to insure that all eight of the retired jockeys will have a mount. Mounts were assigned randomly, with Bellagio (No. 8) being listed as the 9-5 morning-line favorite with Mary Russ-Tortora aboard.

Several of the women who rode in one or both of the first two Lady Legends races are back, including Russ-Tortora, 58, the first female to win a Grade 1 stakes; Patti Cooksey, 54, one of just two women (with Andrea Seefeldt) to ride in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness; Barbara Jo Rubin, 62, the first woman to win a parimutuel race (Charles Town, 1969); Cheryl White, 58, the first African-American female jockey; and Jennifer Small, 59, the top pioneer female jockey in Maryland in the 1970s.

New to the series are Zoe Cadman, 37, now a racing analyst for HRTV, and Jill Jellison, 48, seventh all-time among female riders with 1,853 wins.

Both Wiley-Wagner and Cooksey are mothers and breast-cancer survivors, and the cause of the day carries even greater meaning to them. “It’s important to me to show my kids that sometimes life doesn’t go the way we want it to, but we have to pick ourselves up and use it as a learning experience,” said Wiley-Wagner.

Once again Pimlico is matching the amount of win money wagered ontrack as a donation to the Susan G. Komen breast-cancer foundation.

The jockey challenge for active female jockeys, a win-only wager, is set for races 2, 3, 5, and 7. Among the participants in the points-based contest are Rosie Napravnik, Rosemary Homeister Jr., Emma-Jayne Wilson, Vicky Baze, Tammi Piermarini, Forest Boyce, and Greta Kuntzweiler. Abby Fuller had been scheduled to take part but will miss it following the recent death of her father, longtime horseman Peter Fuller.

Last year, Wilson was the winner in the jockey challenge when she finished first or second in three of the four races.

Participants in both the Lady Legends and the jockey challenge will take part in an autograph session on the first-floor grandstand at 10 a.m. Eastern.