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Emma-Jayne Wilson Dominates Pimlico Jockey Challenge

Emma-Jayne Wilson Wins 2013 Battle Of The Sexes Jockey Challenge
Photo: Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club
She may ride regularly in Canada, but Emma-Jayne Wilson is finding herself right at home at Old Hilltop.


Wilson, 25, compiled 36 points to cruise to victory in the inaugural $34,000 Xpressbet ‘Battle of the Sexes’ Jockey Challenge on Friday afternoon at Pimlico Race Course.


Based at Woodbine, Wilson won three of four challenge races to finish with a 13-point edge on her runner-up, Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado. In the new format, pitting four each of the country’s top male and female riders, the women edged the men by a 61-39 margin in total points.


In separate wagering on the four-race challenge, Wilson paid $25 for the win on a $2 bet. The Wilson-Prado exacta was worth $72.80.


“It feels good,” said Wilson, who earned the top prize of $12,000. “What it all boils down to is having fun and showcasing the game, but I’m a jock and I’m a competitor, so you always like to win.”


Held in conjunction with the Lady Legends for the Cure IV, a pari-mutuel race featuring eight retired female riders, the challenge was part of The People’s Pink Party, a joint effort between Pimlico and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s largest breast cancer organization, to help raise money and awareness in the fight against the disease.


This marked the fifth year for a jockey challenge at Pimlico on the eve of the Preakness Stakes, and the first in its new format. It was the second win for Wilson, who also finished first in an all-female version of the challenge in 2011. She donated a portion of Friday’s winnings to the breast cancer cause.


“It was a little less of a whirlwind for me. Now, I’m a little bit more of a veteran,” she said. “I know Pimlico a little better than I did the first time, so I was able to catch my breath and enjoy it a little bit more this time.”


Twelve points were awarded for finishing first among challenge participants, six for second, four for third and three for fourth.


Rounding out the finishers were Forest Boyce, third with 10 points; Javier Castellano and Kristina McManigell, who tied for fourth with nine points; Rosie Napravnik (six), Gary Stevens (four) and John Velazquez (three).


The challenge got off to an exciting start in the second race, when Prado came from off the pace with 6-to-5 favorite Graeme’s Song ($4.40) to edge Napravnik and Hall of Famer Stevens, separated by a head for second and third, respectively.


Next-to-last in the opener, Wilson took over from there, winning each of the last three challenge races. She won the third race with Heart of Rome ($6.40), running down 6-5 favorite Talent N Passion and Castellano in the stretch.


In the fifth race, Wilson was the first challenge participant to hit the wire, running second with 60-1 long shot R. B. Float, who returned $52.40 for the place. She led all competitors again in the seventh on Followmyfootsteps, who paid $12.60 for second at 12-1.


“You look at the form every time in these challenges, and it’s all luck of the draw,” Wilson said. “You take a look and think you have some decent shots with some decent horses; for it to come to fruition is just good fun. I just come to do these things to showcase the game and have fun. The win here today is just a bonus.”


Wilson has 1,059 wins and more than $50 million in purse earnings in her career, which began in 2004. She captured the 2005 Eclipse Award and Canada’s Sovereign Award in 2005 and 2006 as champion apprentice.


In 2007, Wilson became the first female rider to win the Queen’s Plate, Canada’s oldest race and its version of the Kentucky Derby, aboard Mike Fox.


“Every year I walk into the jock’s room here and even at Woodbine, and it’s full of girls,” she said. “It’s getting to be more and more every year, and that’s what I like to see. There’s a larger number of girls getting the opportunity to ride and showcase their abilities, and within that percentage you get those upper-echelon jocks that get a chance to showcase themselves in the big races.”


Prado earned $8,000 for finishing second, Boyce collected $6,000 for third, and Castellano and McManigell split $4,000 for fourth. The remaining participants each took home $1,000.


The challenge brought together eight riders who have won more than 23,000 career races and over $1 billion in purse earnings, including 14 Triple Crown races, five Eclipse Awards and two Sovereign Awards.


“I really give kudos to (Racing Secretary) Georganne Hale and the guys here at Pimlico,” Wilson said. “They do a good job and make sure they get some top-notch riders to make it a true showcase event. That’s tough to do. I’ve been around the world for some of these different events, and jocks have different commitments. The fact that they’re able to put this together as well as they do is a pat on the back to them.”




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