years after her last victory and more than three decades after being
the first female to capture a Grade 1 race, Mary Russ-Tortora was back
in the winner’s circle on Friday afternoon.
Photo: Jerry Dzierwinski, Maryland Jockey Club
the 59-year-old Russ-Tortora at the controls, Haywired overcame an
awkward start and held off a pair of late closers to win the $52,000
Lady Legends for the Cure IV presented by Wells Fargo at Pimlico Race
by Frannie Campitelli for owner John Davison, Haywired led from start
to finish in the six-furlong allowance for 3-year-olds and up, hitting
the wire in 1:13.08 on a fast main track.
marked the fourth consecutive year that eight retired female jockeys
competed in the pari-mutuel race, held in conjunction with The People’s Pink Party, a partnership between Pimlico management and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s largest breast cancer organization.
made a donation of $27,507 to the Komen Maryland affiliate, equal to
the amount wagered to win on Haywired. Favored at 2-1, the 3-year-old
Cindago gelding paid $6.20 to win on a $2 bet.
in last year’s race, Russ-Tortora is one of five original Lady Legends
participants, along with Jennifer Rowland-Small, Barbara Jo Rubin, Patti
‘PJ’ Cooksey and Cheryl White.
the gate, my heart was pounding a little bit harder,” Russ-Tortora
said. “I was just watching that crack, waiting for it to open, and it
wasn’t opening fast enough. After we came out, it was like old stuff.”
in the inaugural event in 2010, Russ-Tortora won 520 races and nearly
$6 million in purse earnings in her riding career, which lasted from
1980-94. She made history on Feb. 27, 1982, winning the Widener Handicap
aboard Lord Darnley at Hialeah, becoming the first woman to capture a
Grade 1 race.
Russ-Tortora set career highs with 118 wins in 1981 and $1,408,493 in purses in 1993.
still ride horses regularly, but that’s not the same as breezing and
galloping,” she said. “He stumbled leaving there, but he seemed to catch
on to the lead pretty easy. I just nursed it along and tried to keep
the creepy feeling of everybody looking over my shoulder away.”
was the third win in five career starts for the front-running Haywired,
and second in three tries since being claimed by Campitelli. He was
fifth last time out over the Pimlico turf on April 25.
trainer had high praise for the ride from his veteran jockey, who took
Haywired through fractions of :23.56, :47.04 and :59.74 and had a
two-length lead at the top of the stretch.
we had a speed horse, and he went to his knees leaving the gate, it was
like, ‘Wow, we’re in trouble,’” he said. “But, she got him up and got
him on the lead, put everybody to sleep and let him run away from them.
When they came to her, she had something left. She did a great job.
was great. It’s great for the cause, great for the track, great for
everybody. The fans love it. I think they deserve a lot of credit.”
in 2011, Russ-Tortora said she would be back to defend her title next
spring, in an event designed to help raise money and awareness in the
fight against breast cancer.
means a lot to me,” she said. “I have good friends that have battled
cancer and survived it. My own sister died of breast cancer. To have the
technology that God has given them now is just wonderful. I’m so
thankful for it.”
Grain, ridden by 48-year-old newcomer Stacie Clark-Rogers, a Sovereign Award nominee for top apprentice in 1994, was second.
went perfect today,” she said. “This race was great fun for all of us. I
was on a very nice horse, but I couldn’t get to Mary. (Trainer) Katy
(Voss) did a great job training this horse. I got on a few for her in
the morning to tune up for today.”
55, herself a breast cancer survivor and one of two females to ride in
both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, was third on Outbacker.
ran a winning race,” Cooksey said. “She probably would have been better
on the outside. But even after all the years, I can’t bring myself to
circle the field, so when Abby (Fuller on Start the Party) swung wide at
the head of the stretch, I just started picking my way through. I was
real happy with the race. It gets a little tougher each year but it is
for such a great cause.”
Show Ya Luv, ridden by Zoe Cadman, 38, a winner of 311 races from 2000-04 and now an analyst for HRTV, was fourth.
“It was good until the end where I got bumped pretty hard,” she said. “It was right before the wire. But, hey, that’s racing.”
Fuller, 54, the first female to sweep New York’s Triple Tiara for
fillies with Mom’s Command in 1985, was fifth aboard Start the Party.
was great, just so much fun,” she said. “I raced about a year ago at
Calder, so it's been a while. He was wide coming out of the turn, but
the trainer told me to ease him back and push him out to the outside and
make a run. I thought I had it for a while, but the speed held up. He
ran a good race.”
defending Lady Legends champion and the pioneering female rider in
Maryland in the 1970s, Rowland-Small, 60, was sixth with Santorini Sun.
was a fantastic day,” she said. “The race went great and my horse did
not have any problems at all. It was a good, clean race and a wonderful
Jo Rubin, 64, the first woman to win a pari-mutuel race against males
at a recognized track in 1969, was seventh aboard Keep Momma Happy.
ran great,” she said. “He just didn't have the speed of the other
horses, so he got a lot of dirt in his face. After that, he was like
'that's it' and he was pretty much done at that point. It was great
White, 59, the first female African-American rider, finished eighth
with Wildhaassseee. She was originally named on Dance With Bull, who was
inaugural Lady Legends event in 2010, won by Gwen Jocson, 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 female riders.
Mary Wiley-Wagner, the wife of Maryland Jockey Club starter Bruce Wagner, won the race in 2011.