Rosie Napravnik

Top Kentucky Derby Jockeys – Rosie Napravnik

No female jockey has ever won the Kentucky Derby. In fact, none has even finished higher than ninth place. That was Anna Rose “Rosie” Napravnik, who did it in 2011 aboard Pants on Fire. However early indications are we could see one of the biggest breakthrough moments in the sport’s long history when Napravnik rides Shanghai Bobby into Churchill Downs.

Assuming everything goes without a hitch, that is. Shanghai Bobby is the leading Kentucky Derby contender as we go to press, winning the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile over He’s Had Enough and several other potential Derby horses. That victory capped off a perfect 2012 campaign for Shanghai Bobby at 5-for-5. It also helped Napravnik become the top single-season earner for any female jockey in history at a cool $12.5 million, eighth overall on last year’s money list.

Being a jockey is a tough job for anyone. However Napravnik, who was born in New Jersey in 1988 and now lives in Maryland, has the bloodlines for the job. Her mother Cindy was a steeplechaser rider who opened a training facility while raising the family; Rosie first got on a horse at age two and has never looked back. At the track, they call her “The Natural.”

Once she was old enough to go to the racetrack at age 16, Napravnik headed for Maryland, spending the summer working for trainer Dickie Small, who also gave Julie Krone her start back in 1998. After rising up the ranks on the Atlantic Coast, Napravnik moved to New Orleans in 2010, winning back-to-back meet titles at the Fair Grounds Race Course. She continues to split her time between New Orleans and the scene back East.

She also continues winning. Getting to work with Todd Pletcher and Shanghai Bobby is the kind of opportunity that can make a career. Many people in the industry have their fingers secretly crossed that Napravnik and Shanghai Bobby can win the sport’s first Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. The good news: Affirmed, Seattle Slew (1977) and the great Secretariat (1973) were all named the 2-year old Horse of the Year before winning the Kentucky Derby. Napravnik and Shanghai Bobby could be next.