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Lady Legends Return on Black-Eyed Susan Day

 Barbara Jo Rubin, the first female rider to win a pari-mutuel race against her male counterparts will ride Keep Momma Happy in the The Lady Legends for the Cure IV Race at  Pimlico Race Course on Friday, May 17.
Photo: Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club
As the first female jockey to win a pari-mutuel race against her male counterparts and the first woman named to ride in the Kentucky Derby, Barbara Jo Rubin has some pretty amazing memories of her time in the irons.

 

Though her brief but memorable career ended in 1970, the 64-year-old Rubin gets to relive those moments every May at Pimlico Race Course.

 

Rubin is one of five original participants in the Lady Legends for the Cure, a race which returns for the fourth consecutive year on Friday bringing together an elite group of eight retired female champion riders.

 

The Lady Legends for the Cure IV, presented by Wells Fargo, is a highlight of The People’s Pink Party, a joint effort between Pimlico and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s largest breast cancer organization. The annual springtime event was created in 2010 to help raise money and awareness in the fight against the disease.

 

Pimlico will match the on-track amount wagered on the Lady Legends winner and make a contribution to the Komen Maryland Affiliate.

 

“It’s great. Everyone’s out there rooting for us, because we get back in shape to do this for charity,” Rubin said. “It’s wonderful. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s for such a great cause.”

 

Also on the Friday card are eight stakes, including the $500,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) for 3-year-old fillies, the $300,000 Pimlico Special (G3) for older horses and the $34,000 Xpressbet Jockey Challenge, newly formatted to feature a ‘Battle of the Sexes’ between four each of the top male and female active riders.

 

Grammy-nominated Goo Goo Dolls headline the first-ever Preakness eve concert in the Pimlico infield and will be joined by country music artists Rodney Atkins and Rachel Farley.

 

The inaugural Lady Legends event in 2010 was the first pari-mutuel race of its kind, was profiled on NBC and filmed as the climatic ending to the feature-length documentary, ‘JOCK,’ chronicling the story of the first generation of lady riders.


Carded fourth (post time 1:30 p.m. EST), this year’s Legends race is a $52,000 allowance on the main track at six furlongs that includes six also-eligibles. The 5-to-2 program favorite is Grain, to be ridden by event newcomer Stacie Clark-Rogers.

 

Joining Rubin as fourth-year Lady Legends are Patti ‘PJ’ Cooksey, a breast cancer survivor and one of only two women to ride in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness; Mary Russ-Tortora, the first female to win a Grade 1 stakes race; Cheryl White, the first African-American female rider; and Jennifer Rowland-Small, the defending Lady Legends winner who was the top pioneer female rider in Maryland during the 1970s. Zoe Cadman, an on-air analyst for HRTV who won 311 races from 2000-04, was added to the group last year, finishing sixth.

 

They are joined this year by Abby Fuller, who in 1985 became the first woman to sweep New York’s Triple Tiara with Mom’s Command, a horse bred and owned by her father, Peter; and Clark-Rogers, a Sovereign Award nominee for top Canadian apprentice who rode 87 winners from 1993-96.

 

“I’m on Social Security this year. I said to myself, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this,’” Rubin said. “It’s the only time we get together with all the girls, the old legends. We have a great time. We all wish each other the best in the race and watch out for each other, but ride a good race. It’s wonderful.”

 

Rubin’s best Lady Legends finish was a fifth in 2011, but she has enjoyed just being back in a competitive environment. On Feb. 22, 1969, at the age of 19, she became the first woman to win a race against males at a recognized track aboard the Bryan Webb-trained Cohesian at Charles Town in West Virginia.

 

Just over two months later, she was named to ride Picnic Fair in the 1969 Kentucky Derby, but the horse was scratched prior to the race. Having turned to riding horses as a form of exercise after contracting polio as a child, Rubin was forced to retire due to injuries in January 1970 with 22 wins from 89 mounts.

 

“I think it’s very exciting to be able to get back to it,” she said. “When somebody hits 64, you don’t think you’re going to be riding a race anymore, so it’s a real thrill. The adrenaline rush you get when you get back on the racetrack and are getting ready for it, it brings back lots of memories. Everybody is wonderful to us here. We have a great time getting to see all the jocks, getting to see all the new women that are riding now and how well they’re doing, and seeing a lot of people that we knew from 45 years ago. That’s a lot of years. It does go by fast.”

 

Rowland-Small, 60, had her seven-year riding career ended by injury in 1977, but she went on to breed Touch of Class, a winner of two gold medals for jumping at the 1984 Olympics.

 

Russ-Tortora, 59, the 2012 runner-up, captured the Widener Handicap on Feb. 27, 1982 aboard Lord Darnley at Hialeah, becoming the first woman to win a Grade 1 race. She won 520 races and nearly $6 million in purses from 1980-94.

 

White, 59, made her riding debut on Ace Reward, a horse owned by her mother and trained by her father, Raymond White, who started two horses in the Kentucky Derby. A winner of five races on Oct. 19, 1983, White was also the first female steward at a California racetrack.

 

Cooksey, 55, ranks third all-time among female jockeys with 2,137 wins, retiring in 2004 with nearly $19.9 million in career purses. She is the first woman to ride in the Preakness, finishing sixth with Tajawa in 1985.

 

Fuller, 54, who was forced to drop out of Pimlico’s all-female jockey challenge last year following the death of her father, returns to the Lady Legends after finishing second to Mary Wiley-Wagner in 2011.Originally retired in 2002, she briefly returned to riding last year and shows 582 wins and $5.4 million in career purses.

 

Participants from both the Lady Legends and the Xpressbet Jockey Challenge will take part in an autograph session on the first floor grandstand starting at 10 a.m.

 

 

 

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