On Friday, May 20, Mary Wiley Wagner, a breast cancer survivor riding a 4-year-old Maryland Thoroughbred named Mass Destruction, thundered down the stretch at Pimlico to win the Lady Legends for the Cure Race II. The pari-mutuel race, featuring eight retired champion female jockeys, has become a highlight of the Black-Eyed Susan Day/People’s Pink Party racing card two years running thanks to the continued partnership between the Maryland Jockey Club and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
For Wagner, the last 18 months have been an amazing ride. In March 2010, a few months removed from her final chemo treatment, the 47-year-old returned to the saddle for the first time in nearly 14 years. She finished 4th in the inaugural Lady Legends Race (aboard Mass Destruction) and came out of retirement to ride professionally again only to re-retire last November after capturing her 276th career win at Laurel.
Career win 277 came on a warm, sunny afternoon at Old Hilltop before 28,000 fans clad in pink.
In the week that followed the race, Wagner and I exchanged emails.
“Was it just me or did you ride a perfect race?” I asked.
“You are partial, but I did manage to ride a smart race,” she wrote back. “My trusty steed was perfect and rated so nicely. If I never ride another race I may be okay. What a note to go out on.”
Wagner will continue to gallop horses at Laurel this summer but, unlike last year, has no plans of coming out of retirement (again). But that is not to say she isn’t keeping all options on the table.
“I have not yet sold my saddle,” says Wagner.