by John Scheinman
Mary Russ-Tortora retired as a professional jockey in 1994, and even though she had ridden in the "Lady Legends for the Cure" the past three years, she was extremely nervous in the starting gate for the race at Pimlico Race Course May 17.
"My heart was pounding when I was watch those gates crack, and they weren't opening fast enough," Russ-Tortora said in the winner's circle after winning the allowance race for the first time aboard John Davison's Haywired.
The 3-year-old California-bred Cindago colt trained by Francis Campitelli ran the six-furlong race in 1:13.08 on a fast track, leading every step of the way. He beat runner-up Grain, ridden by Stacie Rogers-Clark, by a half-length. Outbacker and Patricia Cooksey finished third (VIDEO).
Also in the race was Barbara Jo Rubin, 64, who was the first female jockey to win a pari-mutuel race and the first woman to ride in the Kentucky Derby.
The Lady Legends race was inaugurated in 2010 by Pimlico and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization to raise awareness and money in the fight against breast cancer.
Russ-Tortora, 59, who finished second in the Lady Legends race last year, was the first woman to win a grade I stakes race when she rode Lord Darnley to victory in the Widener Handicap in 1982 at Hialeah Park. In her career she won 520 races and nearly $6 million.
Russ-Tortora, who received a check for $28,000, said the race was especially meaningful because her sister died of breast cancer.
Winded but excited after the race, she said that while she rides horses regularly, "that's not the same as racing and galloping."