Rosie Napravnik rides into history with victory in Kentucky Oaks
BY LEW FREEDMAN For the Sun-Times May 4, 2012 10:52PM
Rosie Napravnik, Believe You Can
Kentucky derby 138
PP/Horse Trainer Jockey Odds
1. Daddy Long Legs Aiden O’Brien Colm O’Donahue 30-1
2. Optimizer D. Wayne Lukas Jon Court 50-1
3. Take Charge Indy Patrick Byrne Calvin Borel 15-1
4. Union Rags Michael Matz Julien Leparoux 9-2
5. Dullahan Dale Romans Kent Desormeaux 8-1
6. Bodemeister Bob Baffert Mike Smith 4-1
7. Rousing Sermon Jerry Hollendorfer Jose Lezcano 50-1
8. Creative Cause Mike Harrington Joel Rosario 12-1
9. Trinniberg Bisnath Parboo Willie Martinez 50-1
10. Daddy Nose Best Steve Asmussen Garrett Gomez 15-1
11. Alpha Kiaran McLaughlin Rajiv Maragh 15-1
12. Prospective Mark Casse Luis Contreras 30-1
13. Went the Day Well Graham Motion John Velazquez 20-1
14. Hansen Mike Maker Ramon Dominguez 10-1
15. Gemologist Todd Pletcher Javier Castellano 6-1
16. El Padrino Todd Pletcher Rafael Bejarano 20-1
17. Done Talking Hamilton Smith Sheldon Russell 50-1
18. Sabercat Steve Asmussen Corey Nakatani 30-1
19. I’ll Have Another Doug O’Neill Mario Gutierrez 12-1
20. Liaison Bob Baffert Martin Garcia 50-1
Updated: June 6, 2012 8:09AM
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Bursting from the gate hard, Believe You Can made believers out of everyone Friday in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks and truly made it ladies day at Churchill Downs when Rosie Napravnik made history as the first female jockey to win the 138-year-old race.
Tucking in on leader Broadway Alibi’s shoulder into the first turn, holding steady on the backstretch and coming into the straightaway, the 13-1 long shot overtook the early front-runner to capture the 1 1/8th-mile run for 3-year-old fillies by three-quarters of a length.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Napravnik, whose ninth-place finish aboard Pants On Fire last year is the best-ever finish by a female jockey in the equally old Kentucky Derby. “I cried a little and I don’t think I’m done crying yet. It’s what it feels like having your dreams come true.”
Coming into the stretch, before the roaring crowd of 112,552 fans — the Run For The Lillies’ second largest ever — Napravnik thought she had the horse right there.
“This is it,” she said to herself as she wielded the whip. “We’re just going to get it or we’re not.”
The Oaks was delayed 38 minutes from its scheduled start because violent weather passed through Louisville in late afternoon, requiring the temporary evacuation of infield spectators to shelter.
A light rain fell as the race began, but the track was still rated fast. Believe You Can, owned by former Kentucky Gov. Brereton Jones, who served between 1991 and 1995, and Broadway’s Alibi, made it a two-horse race for the entire 11/8th-mile trip. Third-place finisher Grace Hall was the prerace 7-2 favorite.
An hour before the Oaks, Grace Hall’s jockey, Javier Castellano, took a spill in another race and had been removed from the track on a stretcher bed.
Napravnik, 24, was roundly praised by Jones.
“She is the coolest customer I’ve ever seen ride a horse,” said Jones, who said he switched to thoroughbreds from politics because he felt it would be more fun. “She never, ever gets flustered.”
Napravnik felt as if she had taken one giant step for womankind.
“It’s great for all the women in the industry, all the women in the world,” she said. “I’m just happy to represent that.”
The Downs was bursting with fans revving up for the Derby, the culmination of the track’s busiest week, when fans dress in their finery and the backside bustles like a big-city rush hour, unlike the rest of the year.
“It’s the difference between noon and midnight,” said trainer Steve Asmussen, who is based at Churchill Downs and has two horses, Sabercat (30-1) and Daddy Nose Best (15-1), in the Derby.
Long shots are plentiful, including Creative Cause at 12-1, the winner of the Santa Anita Derby. John Cisernos, assistant trainer, who put the horse through its last workout Thursday, said the eighth hole is just right for its spot in the gate.