The Best Female Jockey of All-Time Is Rosie Napravnik

Updated on July 30, 2019
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I've followed the "sport of Kings" since I was a teenager and have continued to be a regular horse player throughout my entire life.

Rosie Napravnik
Rosie Napravnik | Source

Career Statistics

  • Starts: 9,715
  • Wins: 1,877
  • 2nd Place: 1,636
  • 3rd Place: 1,432
  • Earnings: $71,396,717

The 2013 Triple Crown Mounts

Rosie rode the filly Unlimited Budget in the Belmont Stakes, breaking from post 13. She finished in 6th place, a disappointing finish for the filly but understandable in her first start against males and battling the sloppy track conditions.

Only the third female to ever ride in the Preakness Stakes, Rosie finished in 3rd place on Mylute to set the standard as the best finish in the race by her gender. She insisted after the race that she hates to be compared to other females from the past and wants to feel like she can compete with anyone.

Rosie Napravnik finished 5th in the 2013 Kentucky Derby on Mylute, the best finish ever for a female jockey in the history of the race. She previously had finished 9th a few years prior on Pants Oo Fire, the former record holder. Despite being stuck in heavy traffic on the far turn, Rosie guided her horse through the mud and finished well with a hard-charging fifth-place finish in the field of 19.

Rosie finishing 5th in the Kentucky Derby on MYLUTE
Rosie finishing 5th in the Kentucky Derby on MYLUTE

The Early Years

Born in 1988 as the daughter of a horse show trainer and a horseshoer, she grew up in New Jersey surrounded by horses most of her early life. It was only natural that her familiarity around horses would lead to a career involving racing.

Her career began in 2005 as she joined the jockey colony in Maryland, which has been a breeding ground for many new jockeys to compete against other top prospects and a few veterans. In 2006, after only her second full year of racing, she finished 31st in the nation, with earnings exceeding 6 million dollars!

Over the next few years, she remained in the top 50 nationally but didn't really have a huge victory that would make her known to all of the world's top owners and trainers. She had the label of "good female jockey", which meant that she was trusted enough to win consistently at the small- and medium-sized tracks, but not good enough to get the Triple Crown horses. It seemed like she was going to be stuck in the same place forever due to the fact that many owners simply will not use a woman on their best stock.

The Big Break

Perhaps the moment that made owners open their minds to Rosie's ability came in May of 2011. The Kentucky Oaks is the equivalent of the Kentucky Derby, except the Oaks is only open to 3-year-old fillies. It takes place on the Friday before the big Derby, so several million fans are watching across the globe. Rosie Napravnik was given a chance to compete in the Oaks race on a 16-1 longshot named St. Johns River.

In the video below, keep your eye on the 13 horse. When the gate opens, she stumbles a bit and Rosie darts her across the track behind the entire field to save ground and cruise along the rail around the turns. This turned out to be a brilliant strategy as you will see in the stretch.

2011 Kentucky Oaks

Her superb effort in this prestigious race helped launch her from "top female jockey" status in everyone's eyes to just "great jockey". She began getting more offers from the owners and trainers that had snubbed her up until that point.

The following day, she finished 9th in the Kentucky Derby on Pants On Fire, the highest finish ever for a female rider. For Rosie, she had finally arrived. However, that was just a prequel for what the next year would bring . . .

Source

From Oaks to Oaks

Over the next year, Rosie continued to win a ton of races and became a top-30 jockey in the final standings. She was especially excited because she was slotted to ride in both the Oaks and the Derby for the Jones family. Disappointment struck late along the Derby trail when her horse was unable to compete and she was without a ride in the world's most prestigious race. However, she decided to make the best of it and focus on her mount in the 2012 Oaks, a 13-1 longshot named Believe You Can.

2012 Kentucky Oaks

Aftermath of the 2012 Oaks

Rosie Napravnik became the first female jockey in history to win the Kentucky Oaks. Her connections were overwhelmed with joy as the victory helped lessen the sting of losing a shot at the Derby. For the 2nd straight year, Rosie had taken a longshot in the Oaks and given it a top-notch ride.

The payoffs for the race: Win 29.60 Place 11,80 Show 6.40

Now, expectations would begin to rise and she would have to continue to perform at a high level to compete with the world's top jockeys. The Oaks was an incredible stepping stone, but the Derby dream would have to wait another year. Little did she know that she had already met a horse earlier that year who would launch her career even further.

Shanghai Bobby

Three weeks before her Oaks victory, Rosie was about to ride Shanghai Bobby in his first career start. She later recalled that he was confident and very powerful, not intimidated at all by the other competitors around him. He went off as an even-money favorite and easily handled the field of non-winners. However, Rosie had the upcoming Oaks and Derby on her mind, so this talented horse would have to wait a little longer to get her full attention.

Shanghai Bobby romped in his next 3 starts as well. Now, Rosie realized exactly what had come into her life. She had her first "superhorse"! Every successful jockey, at some point, will have that one special horse that can take them to places that they have never been before. Jerry Bailey had Cigar, Shane Sellers had Skip Away, Gary Stevens had Point Given. Was this going to be the animal that takes her to superstar status?

Shanghai Bobby
Shanghai Bobby

She would have that answer soon, as Shanghai Bobby was competing in the $2 million Breeders Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park in California. For Rosie, this was the biggest moment of her career—even larger than her Oaks win. This time, she wasn't on a long shot that no one took seriously. She had a horse that was supposed to win, supposed to defeat the top 2-year-olds in the entire world, and had to do it on racing's largest global stage.

Only one woman had ever won a Breeders Cup in history—the Hall of Fame jockey Julie Krone. Rosie had the opportunity to make herself a legend at age 24.

The Eyes of the World Upon Them

The team of Rosie Napravnik and Shanghai Bobby were ready to battle the best 2-year-old colts and geldings in the world. Millions and millions of eyes upon them, it was time to see if they were up to the task!

The Promised Land

Staring at the jaws of defeat, Shanghai Bobby found one final burst of energy to hold on to a victory by a nose. With 200 yards to go, it looked like he was surely going to lose, but Rosie urged him to give him everything that he had left. When it was over, she had established herself as a force to be reckoned with in the sport of kings. She was no longer just the best "female" rider. Plus, she joined Julie Krone as the second women to ever win a Breeders Cup race. She also knew something else that was perhaps even more important than this victory. Rosie was the jockey of the early favorite to win the 2013 Kentucky Derby!

Photo Finish of the 2012 BC Juvenile race, won by Shanghai Bobby and ridden by Rosie Napravnik
Photo Finish of the 2012 BC Juvenile race, won by Shanghai Bobby and ridden by Rosie Napravnik | Source

2013 Update

Unfortunately, Shanghai Bobby never returned to his former self. His 2-year-old campaign finished a perfect 5 for 5, but his only two starts in 2013 yielded a 2nd place finish and a disappointing 5th in a prep race for the Kentucky Derby. His owners have decided not to enter him into the race and give him some more rest, hoping for a return to his former self down the road.

As for Rosie, as of April 2013, she was leading the nation in victories. Her victory in the BC Juvenile had launched her career into a whole new level that had never been achieved by a female rider. 25 in 2013, only a major injury or life-changing event can prevent her from shattering all of Julie Krone's records. Rosie has proven that she is more than just the best female jockey on the planet. Someday, she may be remembered as one of the best, regardless of gender.

Giving an interview before a big race
Giving an interview before a big race | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2013 Kenneth Claude

    Feel free to share comments/feedback or ask me any questions that you may have !

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