One of the stars of the just completed meeting at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans was jockey Rosie Napravnik, who ran away with the leading rider title in her first season at the Louisiana track.
The 23-year-old native of Morristown, N.J., rode 110 winners, 31 more than second-leading rider Shaun Bridgmohan.
“I had ridden a lot for Mike Stidham the past two summers at Delaware Park,” said Napravnik in a release. The jockey was represented in New Orleans by Derek Ducoing, who will have her book at Keeneland and during Derby Week at Churchill Downs. “I got down there, worked hard, and our business really picked up.”
Now a lot of people that Napravnik rode for, including Stidham, have relocated to Keeneland, where she will ride against one of the deepest riding colonys in the country.
“It is very exciting to see what we can do,” said Napravnik, who is named on five mounts on Keeneland’s opening-day card April 8. “I have ridden against all of these guys before, but never at a meet. It will give me a good perspective as to where I am at.”
A jockey for six years, Napravnik considers herself to still be a work in progress.
“I feel like I am improving all the time and I never want to get to the point where I stop learning,” Napravnik said. “I look back after each year and I can see where I have improved so much.”
Her biggest victory at Fair Grounds came in the $1 million Louisiana Derby (gr. II) on Pants On Fire, who will give Napravnik her first chance to ride in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
“I am very excited about him,” Napravnik said. “He is a great horse to ride and he will be the easiest kind of horse to ride in a huge field. He’s got a lot of heart.”
This year’s Derby will be a first for Napravnik on all fronts.
“I have never been to the Derby,” she said. “I have been to a couple of Preaknesses and the Breeders’ Cup, but I hear Derby Week is just crazy,” Napravnik said. “I am very excited to have the chance to be there.
“I didn’t expect to be riding in the Kentucky Derby in 2011. I wouldn’t say that riding the Derby is a dream of mine, but riding in those kinds of races are part of my dream. I want to be at the level where I can ride those kinds of races and do it more than once.”
One of the first items of business for Napravnik at Keeneland will be her partnership with All In Stable’s Willcox Inn , whom she will ride in the April 16 Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) in a bid to become the first female rider to win the marquee race of the spring meeting.
She is scheduled to be aboard the morning of April 9 when Willcox Inn has his final work for the 1 1/8-mile race.
“He is a really nice horse and his race in the Breeders’ Cup was very impressive,” Napravnik said of Willcox Inn, who finished third in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. II). “He has a really big late kick and the first time I rode him he closed a lot of ground. That race (the Grindstone) was only 7 1/2 furlongs and the mile and eighth (of the Blue Grass) should be to his advantage.”