Napravnik, 25, bidding to become the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Derby, finished in fifth place on Mylute in the 19-horse field in Saturday's 139th running of the Derby. The previous best finish by a female jockey in the Derby had been Napravnik's ninth place in 2011 aboard Pants on Fire.


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Rosie is one of only six women to have ever competed in the Kentucky Derby, the first being Diane Crump in 1970. Rosie has highest finish by a female (9th in 2011) and will become only the second woman to have competed in two Kentucky Derbys.

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Anna could be out five months with a broken left leg. when she fell Saturday during a race at Delaware Park in Stanton, Del. Her leg was broken in two places. 


Rosie Napravnik rides ever closer to making Derby history

After showering in the jockey's room for women at Churchill Downs, Rosie Napravnik traded her mud-caked riding garb for a rose red dress and a big-brimmed, black Kentucky Derby hat. She wasn't dressed for a victory party, but she had distinguished herself.

Napravnik, 25, bidding to become the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Derby, finished in fifth place on Mylute in the 19-horse field in Saturday's 139th running of the Derby. The previous best finish by a female jockey in the Derby had been Napravnik's ninth place in 2011 aboard Pants on Fire.

It was just the eighth start by a female jockey in the Derby. Napravnik now has matched Julie Krone (14th in 1992 and 11th in 1995) with two starts.

"If I moved four places from two years ago to this year, then ...," said Napravnik, her voice trailing off as she did the math in her head for another four-place jump that would put her first the next time.

She finished six lengths behind winning Orb.

"It was really exciting. I was excited to have the best finish by a female," said Napravnik, who last year became the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on the Friday before the Derby.

"We really stepped it up this year. The most exciting thing is about this horse and how well he ran today. I had a really wide trip (after starting in the No. 6 position). He's very talented. He is really for these classic distance races. And I'm really excited. … He's really growing into a very nice race horse.''

Earlier this year, Napravnik was riding Shanghai Bobby, who had been a star as a 2-year-old and might have been the favorite in the Derby.

But after Shanghai Bobby was sidelined by a stress fracture in his hip, Napravnik switched to Mylute, who went off in the Derby at 14-1. She had ridden Mylute to a previous victory in an allowance race.

"I couldn't have been more happy, well, I guess I could have been more pleased today," she said with a smile. "But I was really pleased with the way he ran."

Napravnik, who started riding when she raced ponies as a youngster in New Jersey, said she followed the race plan from trainer Tom Amoss.

"My instructions from Tom were just let him fall out (out of the gate) and run the way he likes to run, which is from behind," said Napravnik.

"He's always kind of just very relaxed. He stood in the gate like a statue, which I was thankful for. I was a little bit further back than I anticipated going into the first turn. But Orb, I mean I could have touched him the whole way around there.

"So we got a pretty good trip other than going wide. A lot of times that's the winning move. And obviously today it was Orb's.''

Revolutionary, ridden by three-time Derby winner Calvin Borel, took third. Normandy Invasion, ridden by veteran Javier Castellano, was fourth.

Of course, Napravnik was the lone female rider in the Derby.

"I have never wanted to win a photo (finish) for third so bad in my life," she said.

Kentucky Derby 2013: Rosie Napravnik aiming to be first female Derby winner

Rosie Napravnik isn't worried about history. She knows that will take care of itself.

Just to hedge her chances, though, the 25-year-old jockey is working on her chemistry with a long shot named Mylute in Saturday's Kentucky Derby.

Two years after achieving the best finish by a female jockey in the Derby, she will try to become the first woman to win it. Napravnik's pursuit of the milestone comes a year after she became the first female rider to win the Kentucky Oaks, the second-biggest race on Churchill Downs' marquee weekend.

Mylute is a 15-1 shot to win the Derby, but his last win came in December with Napravnik aboard. That performance offered a glimpse into her ability to get the most out of a horse, something she has shown in being the leading rider at four tracks.

Doing it again Saturday could make Derby history.

Napravnik is confident that Mylute could make it happen.

"Mylute will definitely come from off the pace because that's his style," said Napravnik, who will start from the No. 6 post position. "That's not a bad style to have when the race is a mile and a quarter. It's very long, so if you can have a horse that can stay relaxed in the first part, that's definitely to your advantage."

For her part Napravnik has been more relaxed preparing for her second Derby appearance. That hasn't been easy considering the barrage of media requests asking about her attempt to do what six women, including herself, have failed to do in 138 previous Derbys against male jockeys.

Napravnik is well aware of that history and tectonic impact her victory could have. But that quest is two days away, and the New Jersey native is simply embracing the attention her presence has brought to the sport.

Having gone through the Derby experience in 2011 while guiding Pants On Fire to a ninth-place finish, Napravnik feels more like a veteran the second time around.

"It's nice to have the experience of when I was here two years ago," she said. "It's a little less overwhelming and I know what to expect. I've been able to handle it better.

"A lot has happened in my career since I was here two years ago. I think I've been more recognized, it's very flattering and everybody has been very positive. Winning the Kentucky Oaks last year was probably the greatest moment of my career."

As it turned out, Napravnik's breakthrough victory aboard Believe You Can in the Oaks was just the first of several big moments. She rode Shanghai Bobby to five wins including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, helping the colt claim the 2-year-old championship.

A couple of months later she climbed aboard Mylute at Fair Grounds Race Course near New Orleans and immediately forged a bond that led to a second mount in the Derby. The horse earned his second career win by nearly 11 lengths on Dec. 26, his best effort in nine starts.

Napravnik went on to be Fair Grounds' top rider for the third straight year, adding similar honors at Laurel, Pimlico and Delaware Park.

"We're lucky to have her," Amoss said of Napravnik. "It may be a bit surprising that she was available for theKentucky Derby with what I thought about her being very much in demand. But their loss is our gain."

Amoss struggles for an exact description of Napravnik's success but notes that her ability to connect quickly with her mounts. The only other jockey he has seen with that talent is Hall of Famer Pat Day, which is saying something.

At the same time, Amoss notes Napravnik's businesslike demeanor that has helped her deal with being in a male-dominated sport. Not to mention, all the attention she has gotten this week.

Napravnik is all smiles when it comes to the horse and specifically Mylute. She has been pleased with his breezes this week and looks forward to Saturday and a possible brush with history.

"He feels great, he's acting great and I'm very confident heading into the Derby," she said. "Hopefully, we can make history."

Danica has nothing on Rosie

It isn't rare to see a female horse jockey, but it is rare to find one with a usable sex appeal. She made "The 20 Hottest Redheads in Sports" list in 2012. And Rosie is also one of the most talented female jockey's of all time, having finished in ninth place during the 2011 Kentucky Derby, the highest finish by a woman, ever.

Sassy and savvy

Anna Rosie Napravnik has 221 victories in 51 weeks, making her the fifth-winningest jockey in the country this year — and she can’t even legally drink a beer to celebrate.

With flaming red hair and a sassy attitude, the 18-year-old apprentice sensation is the talk of the industry after winning the riding title at Laurel Park in the spring and leading the roster now at Pimlico.

Sitting in the women’s jockey room at Pimlico on a recent afternoon, Napravnik looks like the typical teenager. She fiddles with the sunglasses perched on her head and checks for missed calls on her pink cell phone, which is clipped to the waistband of tight blue jeans. Platform wedge sandals show off her pink-painted toenails.

But Napravnik is the first to admit she’s not typical.

“Not at all,” she says. “But I don’t think I’m the typical high school dropout, either. ”

The decision to leave school after two years at Hereford High was a tough one, but Napravnik says it wasn’t regrettable; she’ll take her high school equivalency test in July. Her version of the real world includes a lot of attention and money — her earnings total more than $4 million and she’s looking for a house to buy — but she’s sometimes lonely.

“I didn’t have any friends in Hereford,” she says. “I was too tired and grumpy for friends.”

Now with a serious boyfriend, she said she spends even her off time with friends from the track, talking about the track. But even that time is limited: On busy days, she races as many as nine times before returning to her Laurel apartment, eating dinner and heading to bed.

The Laurel race season spans January through April and, at Pimlico, April through July. In the summer, she works the Timonium Fair circuit and a summer meeting at Pimlico in August. On off days, she travels to Delaware Park to race.

“I don’t have a lot of time to spend doing nothing,” she said. “It’s very tiring.”

The Homestretch

With a brother named Colt, horses must run in Napravnik’s family.

Charles Napravnik said Colt was his only child who didn’t get interested in the horses on the family’s organic farm outside Asbury, N.J. Rosie and her older sister, Jasmine, helped her mother, who trained horses and managed a boarding business. The family didn’t have a television — too much junk on it, Charles says — so horses kept the girls busy.

“After school, they went to the barn,” he said. “They did pony club, horse shows. There wasn’t time for much else.”

When Napravnik was 15, she took a year off from horses to try her hand at just being a teenager.

“I was sick of it,” she said. “I decided I wanted to have nothing to do with horses for a year.”

When Napravnik’s parents divorced two summers ago, Rosie, 16 at the time, moved to northern Baltimore County to live with Jasmine, who was assisting local trainer Holly Robinson. Rosie began helping Jasmine, 23, and Robinson, heading to the barns at 4 a.m. while balancing schoolwork at Hereford.

After her junior year ended last June, Napravnik decided she was ready to race professionally and mounted Ringofdiamonds for her first start.

She won.

In Laurel Park’s winter meet, she won 99 races in 72 days, earning $1.6 million — $600,000 more than her nearest competitor.

Despite her instant success, two agents turned Napravnik down before Pimlico trainer Richard Small introduced her to John Faltynski. She says they just saw her as another girl jockey who wanted to ride with the boys.

But Faltynski, a longtime agent, marked his turf as an industry legend when he took on Julie Krone, who became the only woman to ride a winner of a Triple Crown race (Colonial Affair in the 1993 Belmont) and retired as the all-time winningest female jockey with 3,545 victories.

Faltynski, 52, takes girls seriously.

“I just looked at [Napravnik’s] physique and saw how pretty she is, and I knew she would be so sellable,” Faltynski said. “It was a match made in heaven.”

Though Faltynski acknowledges Napravnik gets feisty at times — after a brief losing streak one recent afternoon, she grumbled about the presence of several reporters clamoring for her photograph — he insists she’s a “pleasure” to work with.

And while some jockeys work out wrapped in plastic on hot summer days, Napravnik says she maintains her 108-pound frame by working out on the horses. Some nights, Faltynski said, she tells him she’s too exhausted after racing to work other horses, but she will be in before the sun is up the next morning.

Faltynski credits Napravnik’s success to that dedication and sheer love for horses.

“She gives me my space, and I give her hers,” he said. “I’m a fan, totally a fan. I can’t believe I get to work with a kid like this.”

Blinkers On

On a recent day, Faltynski said seven owners listed Napravnik to ride their horse in the same race.

Napravnik jokes that she pays Faltynski “the big bucks” to choose which horse she rides in each race, evaluating past mounts, temperaments and odds. Choosing which horse to put his client on is what Faltynski called the toughest part of his job.

“You hurt people’s feelings every day,” he said. “One owner is going to be elated — because that one’s going to the winner’s circle.”

Napravnik, meanwhile, is slowly learning to adjust to life in the spotlight. She’s developing a keen sense of image — she hides a box of cookies in her locker — and smart business sense.

In an interview with The Examiner, Napravnik chooses her words carefully and is cautious not to divulge too much about her personal life.

“I don’t think it’s smart for business,” she says. “The longer I stay around, the better I can establish myself and get my name out there. Every decision you make impacts your career.”

Meanwhile, she just keeps winning.

In March, she won the Private Terms Stakes on a horse with 74-1 odds. On Preakness Day, she won the Grey Goose turf race, which came with a $100,000 purse. This season at Pimlico, she captured 56 wins, more than double that of her closest competitor.

So what’s next for the young star?

“The sky’s the limit,” Napravnik said. “I just want to keep this up.”

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2013 Kentucky Derby


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