A lot has changed in the last decade for the diminutive jockey
with the soft demeanor but tenacious get-out-of-my-way attitude on
Napravnik, who was born Anna Rose but now goes by the name of Rosie,
has established herself as one of the best jockeys in North America,
regardless of gender.
On Saturday, she hopes to become the first woman to win the
Preakness Stakes when she rides Bayern in the $1.5 million classic
at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
She'll be riding for Hall of Fame trainer and five-time Preakness
winner Bob Baffert, who said he picked Napravnik purely for her
"A lot of jockeys are intimidated when they ride for me. She's not,"
"She just rides her horse. I never say hardly a word to her. I just
throw her on there, that's it, and I just leave her alone.
"She does her homework and I don't have to say too much to her."
Napravnik began competing in Pony Club events in New Jersey when she
was around four years old and by age seven, she set her sights on
becoming a jockey.
She won her debut race at Pimlico in 2005 at the age of 17 and is
making her second appearance in the Preakness after finishing third
aboard Mylute last year.
"In the earlier years of my career I just wanted to ride, ride,
ride, ride and win, win, win," she told Reuters.
"Now I've got the opportunity to ride really big horses and ride in
prestigious races like Triple Crown races and Breeders' Cup.
"Now I'm really hungry for those good horses. It doesn't take away
from the every day. I enjoy what I do always. But now, in the back
of my mind, I'm always looking for the big horse.
"I love riding in big races and I've done considerably well for the
small amount of races that I've ridden at this level compared to
some of the guys have been doing it for years."
On 15 mounts for Baffert, Napravnik has eight wins and three seconds
with earnings topping $1 million. Three of those triumphs have been
in Grade I races.
Despite the impressive numbers, Baffert said the 25-year-old
Napravnik is still improving.
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"She's a great rider and I think she's getting better and better,"
he said. "She's better this year than she was last year. I've seen
her really changing a lot.
"Once you have it, you still need the horse underneath you. A great
jockey like her keeps a good horse from getting beat."
Napravnik is the first female jockey to compete in all three jewels
of the Triple Crown, and the only woman to have won the Kentucky
Oaks, a race she has won twice.
The only female jockey to win a Triple Crown race is Julie Krone,
who won the 1993 Belmont Stakes on Colonial Affair.
On Saturday, Kentucky-bred Bayern will take on heavy favorite
California Chrome, and eight other horses in the
mile-and-three-16ths (1900 meters) feature at Pimlico.
In the colt's last start at the Derby trial, Napravnik guided Bayern
across the finish line first but was relegated to second for
interference in the stretch, a decision that still annoys here.
"There was not a whole lot of interference in any part of that
race," she bristled.
(Reporting By Steve Ginsburg; editing by Julian Linden)
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