(AP) Rosie Napravnik aims to be 1st female Derby winner
By GARY GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
Rosie Napravnik isn’t worried about history. She is, however, working on her chemistry–with a horse named Mylute in the 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 on Saturday, 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.
Napravnik is confident Mylute will give her a strong ride
For her part, Napravnik has been more relaxed preparing for her second Derby appearance. That hasn’t been easy considering the barrage of questions 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 the tectonic impact her victory could have. But, for now, the 25-year-old New Jersey rider 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.
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.
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 a male-dominated sport. Not to mention, all the attention she has gotten.
Napravnik is all smiles when it comes to Mylute. She has been pleased with his breezes this week and is ready for Saturday.