More Than A Female Jockey

I recently submitted a blog to the new F.A.C.E.S. of You website, a blog by Howard Alum Shari Logan that is dedicated to the uplifting and empowerment of young female girls.

You can view the article on the site by clicking the title link below or by continuing to read here.

More Than A Female Jockey

In 2011, Anna Rose “Rosie Napravnik” finished in ninth place at the Kentucky Derby, the renowned first leg of the U.S. Triple Crownhorse race held annually on the first Saturday of May.  Her ranking was the best for a female jockey in Kentucky Derby history.  A year later, Napravnik became the first female rider to win the Kentucky Oaks, the filly horse race held a day before the Derby.  This year, Napravnik was back in the Derby again, once again vying to win the Derby and beating her previous best by coming in fifth place.

But Napravnik is over the “first female” hype.

“To me, the female aspect just isn’t a big deal,” Napravnik told espnW in a phone interview two days before the race.  “I’ve been doing this my whole life whole life.  I’ve always been a female.  I’ve always been competing against men.”

Indeed she has.

According to an interview segment on 60 Minutes that aired this past April, the 25-year-old New Jersey native has won more than 1,500 races since she dropped out of high school and began racing horses at the age of 17.  The Equibase Company, an official source for thoroughbred racing information, reports Napravnik’s 2012 race earnings as 8th highest in the country.  She was ranked 23rd in the country for wins.  The daughter of a blacksmith and a horse trainer, Napravnik grew up riding ponies and cleaning stalls.

Now she has placed first, second or third nearly 60 percent of the time this year.

Despite her continued success, Napravnik still faces issues about her gender.  Some owners won’t allow her to race their horses simply because she’s a female.  She also deals with the rude comments of her fellow jockeys, some of whom feel her place is at home, with a baby, in the kitchen – and definitely not on the racetrack.

Napravnik’s horse Shangai Bobby, who went undefeated in 2012 and was this year’s Kentucky Derby favorite, was diagnosed with a bone fracture a little over a month before the big race.  Mylute, the horse Napravnik rode in Shangai Bobby’s stead, had 15-1 odds – certainly not the best.

“Even if I think my chances are slim,” Napravnik told espnW, “I’ll still ride my race and give my horse the absolute best chance to win in case something happens.  I ride every race competitively.”

That spirit paid off when Napravnik beat her 2011 Derby record by coming in fifth place.

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