Frankfort, KY: First Lady Glenna Fletcher today (Monday) presented former jockey P.J. “Patti” Cooksey with the commonwealth’s new “Unbridled Spirit” award for showing courage, optimism, and determination in the face of adversity.
Cooksey, who ranks second only to Julie Krone on the all-time list of victories by female jockeys, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 and returned to riding only nine months later after undergoing a mastectomy, chemotherapy treatments, and reconstructive surgery.
“I can’t think of anybody who epitomizes ‘Unbridled Spirit’ more than Patti,” said Mrs. Fletcher, who made the presentation at the “Celebration of Hope” luncheon at the Governor’s Mansion.
The luncheon was held in honor of Kentucky women who have survived breast cancer, and more than 700 individuals from all parts of the state showed up to demonstrate their support for the First Lady’s campaign on behalf of early detection and annual mammograms.
Last year Mrs. Fletcher began a program by which birthday cards are sent to women around the state with notes attached to remind them to get mammograms. The program was received so enthusiastically that it was renewed for another year.
In thanking Mrs. Fletcher for the “Unbridled Spirit” award, Cooksey told the women that she accepted it on behalf of each of them.
“You all are heroes,” Cooksey said, “and it’s very meaningful for me to be here with you today.”
Cooksey was the second woman to ride in the Kentucky Derby (1984), the first to ride in the Preakness (1985), and the first to win a stakes races at Churchill Downs.
She was inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002.