Updated on 05/17/2013 3:22PM

Pimlico: Mary Russ-Tortora wins Lady Legends for the Cure IV

Barbara D. Livingston
Mary Russ-Tortora is all smiles after winning the Lady Legends for the Cure on Friday at Pimlico.


Mary Russ-Tortora won one for her sister Friday at Pimlico Race Course.

Tortora guided Haywired to a half-length victory in the fourth race, the Lady Legends for the Cure IV. The allowance race on the Black-Eyed Susan undercard brought together eight retired female riders to raise money for breast cancer research. Pimlico will match the ontrack amount wagered on Tortora, which was $4,619, to the Komen Affliate Maryland, plus make an additional contribution to the charity.

"This whole breast cancer awareness, it means a lot to me," said Tortora, 59. "My sister died of cancer, breast cancer.

"It’s my fourth trip here, and it meant so much to get to win it."

Tortora’s sister, Rosemarie, died in her 30s.

Tortora said she has watched friends suffer through breast cancer and is thankful for the medical advances made since she lost Rosemarie.

"I have friends that battled it and survived," she said, "and for God to have given us this technology and knowledge to our doctors to bring this as far as they’ve brought it, I’m just so grateful."

Tortora rode from 1980 to 1994 and won 520 races. In 1982 she became the first female rider to ever win a Grade 1 race, the Widener at Hialeah Park.

Stacie Clark-Rogers finished second in the Lady Legends on Grain. It was another three-quarters of a length back in third to Patricia Cooksey and Outbacker.

Cooksey said this year’s renewal of the Lady Legends was once again a satisfying event.

"This day brings awareness to a horrible disease that one out of three women will get and probably everybody knows somebody who goes through breast cancer," she said. "I’m an 11-year survivor. I talked to a couple of ladies who said, ‘Yeah I was 28 but it just came back.’ We have to eradicate this disease for women’s sake. Maryland Jockey Club, [director of racing] Georgeanne Hale and her staff, Pimlico, I mean, you just can’t ask for a better event from any racetrack in the country."

The grandstand was filled with support for the Lady Legends, with crowd members cheering the riders on by name during the race.

"Where did my mom finish," came one inquiry right after the finish. And when the ladies were in the paddock, one enthusiastic observer passed along to a group of strangers that two of her friends were riding, Abigail Fuller and Cooksey. The group went to bet.

Tortora and her husband, Rick, live in Ocala, Fla., where she is an exercise rider at a training center.

"I ride horses in the morning," she said. "My husband and I have a few in training. I work at a deli at night, and I’m so excited to tell them I won, because they were excited I was second last year."

Haywired paid $6.20 to win. The horse is owned by John Davison and trained by Francis Campitelli.