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Historic women’s-only race to be run Preakness weekend

According to filmmaker Jason Neff, “everybody said a race like this could never happen.”

On Preakness weekend, eight retired women jockeys are running in the first “Lady Legends Race for the Cure,” organized by the Maryland Jockey Club and benefiting the Susan G. Komen For the Cure foundation, the world’s largest breast cancer organization.

The race will take place on Black-Eyed Susan Day, Friday, May 14 at Pimlico Race Course.

So why is a filmmaker commenting on this race? Well, he and Emmy Award-winning producer Linda Ellman have been following the eight women around for the last few months as they get in shape for the race, which also celebrates the 40th anniversary of the first woman jockey to ride in a Triple Crown race.

According to a news release, the feature-length documentary “Jock” will tell the “story of the courageous female jockeys who overcame sexual harassment, ridicule and life-threatening injuries to wage a gallant fight for the right to ride more than 40 years ago.” Next month’s race will be the closing act of the documentary.

Here are your riders:
• Barbara Jo Rubin, age 60, first woman to win against a man at a recognized racetrack, 41 years ago.
• Jennifer Rowland, 57, top pioneer female rider on the Maryland Circuit in the 70’s.
• Cheryl White, 56, the first African-American female jockey.
• PJ Cooksey, 52, the third all-time leading female jockey with over 2000 wins and breast cancer survivor.
• Mary Wiley Wagner, top 5 apprentice jockey in the nation in 1987 and breast cancer survivor.
• Andrea Seefeldt, Kentucky Derby and Preakness jockey.
• Gwen Jocson, record holder for the most wins in a single year by a woman.
• Mary Russ Tortora, 56, first woman to win a Grade 1 stakes race.

Diane Crump was the first female to ride in a Triple Crown race and placed 15th aboard Fathom in the Kentucky Derby in 1970. In 1993, Julie Krone was the first woman to win a Triple Crown race, taking the Belmont aboard Colonial Affair.

This might be an interesting marketing tool for Pimlico and the Preakness organizers if they’re able to get the word out enough. One thing horse racing has struggle with in the last oh, decade or two, is connecting fans with the jockeys. Sure we all know Big Brown and Rachel Alexandra but race horses come and go — jockeys are around for a lot longer.

Of course, these women are retired and this race is a one-shot deal. Any connection a race watcher might have with them won’t last long. But if track marketers can find similarly compelling story lines among jockeys who are still racing and push those out there, who knows? At this rate, it can’t hurt.