Cancer survivor wins race for charity

Eighteen months after finishing her final chemotherapy treatment, Mary Wiley-Wagner had another reason to celebrate.

She was aboard as Mass Destruction came roaring down the stretch Friday to win the Lady Legends for the Cure Race II by 6-1/2 lengths.

It was one of the events that kicked off the biggest weekend in Maryland racing, culminating with the Preakness on Saturday.

”How did it look? Did it look like I was having fun? Wiley-Wagner said. ”Oh, my gosh. This is my passion, and to be able to come back and do it after cancer, damn, it doesn’t get any better.”

This marked the second straight year that eight retired female jockeys competed in a pari-mutuel race, staged in a partnership between Pimlico and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s largest breast cancer organization.

Pimlico made a donation of $33,108.82 to the Komen Maryland affiliate, equal to the amount wagered to win on Mass Destruction. Second choice in the field at odds of 5-2, the 4-year-old gelding paid $7.40 to win.

Seven of the Lady Legends returned for the second edition of the race, minus defending champion Gwen Jocson, who was injured and could not compete. Wiley-Wagner, the wife of Maryland Jockey Club official Bruce Wagner, was fourth on Mass Destruction in last year’s race.

One of the top apprentice jockeys in the country in 1983, Wiley-Wagner made a brief return to competitive riding after last year’s race, winning one of 17 starts at tracks in Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. Her prior victory came on Nov. 24, 2010, at Laurel Park, exactly 367 days after her last session of chemotherapy.

”They didn’t let me win this race last year, and I needed that win,” she said of her recovery from breast cancer, ”Not to prove anything to anybody else, just to prove to myself that I could do that. I did, I retired again, and here I am. But, no, I’m not planning another comeback.”

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