11/26/2010 7:08PM

Wiley-Wagner ends comeback after winning first race since 1996

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Mary Wiley-Wagner, 47, who came out of retirement in August, wins her first race Friday aboard Sonata Brae.

Mary Wiley-Wagner, a cancer survivor who came out of retirement after May’s inaugural Lady Legends for the Cure Race at Pimlico, won for the first time in nearly 14 years in Friday’s last race at Laurel Park. Wiley-Wagner, 47, promptly announced she was retiring again.

Sonata Brae ($10.40) defeated 10 other maiden claimers, rallying from off the pace to prevail by three-quarters of a length. Wiley-Wagner rode the 3-year-old filly Sonata Brae, trained by Tim Keefe, in all five career starts, including four consecutive in-the-money finishes.

“I knew I had the horse on the front end measured and felt confident we were going to cross the line first,” said Wiley-Wagner, who stopped riding in January 1997 while pregnant with her first child. "It was neat the win happened with Tim’s horse. He has supported me more than anybody. There is someone who is buying the rights to my story and I needed to get the win or the story would not have an ending.”

Wiley-Wagner, who finished fourth in the Lady Legends race for retired female riders, was joined by Andrea Seefeldt, P.J. Cooksey, Barbara Jo Rubin, Mary Russ, Cheryl White, Jennifer Rowland, and Gwen Jocson in the historic event held at Pimlico the day before the Preakness.

In August, Wiley-Wagner returned to the saddle full-time but could only land 16 mounts in four months.

“It is hard to walk away but I am just not getting the opportunities,” said Wiley-Wagner. “I don’t feel like I am embarrassing myself but this isn’t an individual sport and if I don’t have the support of the trainers and owners, it is time.”

The wife of Maryland Jockey Club starter Bruce Wagner, she ranked among the top five apprentice riders in the nation in 1987 with 148 victories before retiring in 1997 to start a family. About a year ago she was asked by Maryland Jockey Club racing secretary Georganne Hale to participate in the Lady Legends after beating breast cancer.

“Two years ago Wednesday was my final chemo treatment and my goal was to get the win before that one year was up. I missed it by two days,” Wiley-Wagner said. “It has been a lot of fun. My girls are going to be thrilled. They and Bruce have been so supportive. There have been times I wanted to quit and he told me to quit on my terms.”

Wiley-Wagner intends to participate in the not yet announced Lady Legends 2 that will be held on May 20, 2011 at Pimlico.

“I had to retire to be eligible,” joked Wiley-Wagner. “I can’t tell you how many cancer survivors have been in touch with me on Facebook and said ‘I quit doing A,B, and C because the cancer treatments kicked my butt, but if you can get on horses again I can do A,B, and C again.’ There are going to be so many cool messages when I get home. That means it all.”

Wiley-Wagner re-retires with 276 lifetime wins from 2,654 mounts for earnings of $2,716,900.