Kentucky Derby Winner’s Jockey Rosie Napravnik?

 Kentucky Derby Winner’s Jockey Rosie Napravnik?

Kentucky Derby Winner’s Jockey Have Long Hair?

Who is Rosie Napravnik?  You may not know her name now, but at the end of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, you may read and hear it virtually everywhere.

Ms. Napravnik is a professional jockey, and she has one plan, to win the 138 year old Kentucky Derby tomorrow.  But don’t remind her that she would be the first female to do so.  She is a jockey and believes her gender doesn’t matter.

She will be riding Mylute, who is a 15-1 longshot.  But the last time the horse won was in December and Napravnik was aboard.  And she has won in this venue before.  A year ago she became the first female rider to win the Kentucky Oaks, the second-biggest race on Churchill Downs’ marquee weekend.

She is confident her horse, Mylute, a three year old colt, has a good chance to cross the finish line in first place.

“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.”

Mylute earned his second career win by nearly 11 lengths on Dec. 26, his best effort in nine starts.

Napravnik is 25 years old, 5-foot-2 and 113 pounds, and has had to frequently make a stand while shining in her profession.  Horse racing continues to be a male dominated sport, and many owners and trainers do not favor female jockeys.

“There are still owners and trainers that don’t want to ride a female,” she said. “The only way that I deal with that is, you know, to try to beat that person in a race, beat that trainer or owner in a race.”

She says her fellow jockeys underestimate her as well.

“Other jockeys might underestimate my ability to be aggressive in a race,” she told ESPN The Magazine in a recent interview. “Until they ride with me. Then they’re like, ‘Ohhhh, OK.”

In 2011 she rode Pants On Fire in the Kentucky Derby, finishing 9th.  That was the highest finish for a female since they were allowed to race in 1970.

Her rise to being placed atop her second Derby challenger began when 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 had her first ride on Mylute at Fair Grounds Race Course near New Orleans.  She said there was an instant bond between horse and rider.  Napravnik went on to be Fair Grounds’ top rider for the third straight year, adding similar honors at Laurel, Pimlico and Delaware Park.

She has had a love affair all of her life with horses.  She does not feel intimidated, she is excited.  She says she hadn’t planned on possibly making history by winning the Derby, but she accepts the opportunity.

“You know, she says, “it makes me feel great.  It’s not something I really expected or set out to do in my career.  I sort of have fallen upon this role of being a role model and it makes me feel great that I can inspire somebody.”

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express

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