Haskin's Derby Trail: Run for the Rosie Begins in La. Derby

Rosie Napravnik, who for the second straight year is running away with the jockey’s title at Fair Grounds, is one race away from hearing the strains of “My Old Kentucky Home” raining down on her again as she parades to the post in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

Napravnik ranks her Kentucky Derby experience last year, especially the “roar of the crowd,” and her victory aboard Pants On Fire in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) as the highlights of a career that is soaring to new heights. Now she looks to tread upon that same path, but with different results on the first Saturday in May.

But first she has to get by the $1 million Louisiana Derby April 1. Napravnik, who currently ranks 14th among the nation’s leading riders in money won and is winning at a 21% clip, is hoping for a déjà vu experience. This time, however, she’ll be looking to take it one step further – a Louisiana Derby–Kentucky Derby double. And she knows it will be in her grasp if she can guide Brereton Jones’ Mark Valeski to victory on Sunday.

Unlike Pants On Fire, who was a longshot at Churchill Downs, Mark Valeski is expected to be a strong favorite in the Louisiana Derby following his narrow defeat to El Padrino in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II). In his first start ever around two turns, the son of Proud Citizen turned in a gutsy performance against one of leading 3-year-olds in the country, battling eyeball to eyeball with him almost the entire length of the stretch.

Napravnik is enjoying a career year. Of the top 15 leading money-winning jockeys, the only one with a higher in-the-money percentage than Napravnik (58%) is Ramon Dominguez (60%), who is the leading rider in the country in money won. This weekend alone she has 23 mounts, 11 of them in stakes. Among them is her old friend, Pants On Fire, who she rides in the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II).

With 37 mounts in the final four days of the Fair Grounds meet, Napravnik needs seven wins to surpass her meet-leading 110 victories last year.

As the first female to win the riding title at Fair Grounds and only the sixth to ride in the Kentucky Derby, Napravnick is continuing the recent tradition of female dominance in the Sport of Kings.

“It’s great to see women in the sport be so successful,” she said. “The female stars in the last few years have been unbelievable, from Rachel Alexandra to Zenyatta, the Havre de Grace—Blind Luck rivalry, Chantal Sutherland riding this weekend in the ($10 million) Dubai World Cup, Black Caviar, and Linda Rice becoming the first woman to win the Saratoga riding title. Girl power is something to watch out for, and it shows that females in this industry can compete with the best of them. It brings attention to the game. For example, in last year’s Derby it brought a lot of attention to Pants On Fire. There were a lot of people betting on No. 7 because there was a girl jockey on him.”

But Napravnik’s accomplishments on the track have transcended the phrase “girl jockey.” People are now beginning to recognize her as one of leading jockeys in the country, period.

A victory by Mark Valeski on Sunday will bring even more attention to Napravnik than she had last year, as she and the colt’s trainer, the affable Larry Jones, turn on the charm for the news hungry media looking for feel-good stories.

To initiate the many play on words that likely will appear, a Rosie by any other name still smells as sweet. As sweet as the Kentucky Derby victory blanket.


Leave a Comment:

backside sweetie

Will be rooting for you Rosie,as always,you go girl!! Remember when,at Sheppard's !!!

27 Mar 2012 6:28 PM

Pants on Fire was my derby horse last year but he bled,preceding him i was on Endorsement who was sidelined and returned recently to break a track record,so i shall say nothing about her mount as it seems i am a BLIGHT.

27 Mar 2012 6:32 PM
Uncle Smiley

I thought the Wyeths and Michael Matz should  have considered Rosie for Union Rags..

Now Mark Valeski is blessed with a Triple Crown capable rider.

True, Rosie is not the best female jockey, Rosie is one of the best jockeys flat out.


27 Mar 2012 10:34 PM

She's the real deal. Hall of Fame, I guarantee!

27 Mar 2012 10:48 PM
Don from PA/DE

Thanx SH, been a big fan of RN since seeing her start out at DP and a few years ago, after she won a stakes race there, I was next to trainer B.Tagg who said to his owner as he dragged him back to watch the replay, "Just look at her Hands !" Impressive memory, glad I was there! Maybe you can ask BT about her? Don

28 Mar 2012 8:55 AM
Your Only Friend

Rosie is one of the best.....remember you have too have good agent that can identify live horses too win.

28 Mar 2012 9:36 AM
Pedigree Ann

Mark Valeski is behind other candidates for the Derby. The Risen Star was his first 2-turn race and he ran on an undemanding pace early, was able to hang in decently against El Padrino, who is crazily overhyped, IMHO. As if beating Mr. 'Goes-backwards in the final furong' Take Charge Indy is a major accomplishment. (I refuse to believe that he has been the recipient of bad rides in 4 consecutive races from competent, journeymen riders.)

28 Mar 2012 10:39 AM
Bill Two

It's really gratifying to see Rosie do so well.  She really has some grit and some real ability.  Not since Julie Krone have I seen a woman who could finish so strong.  Watching her career develop in Maryland and Delaware it quickly became obvious she had a lot of potential.  I just pray she stays healthy.  The sky is the limit.

28 Mar 2012 11:06 AM
Bob from Boston

Nice article.  Did Dr. Drunkinbum write that last paragraph for you?

28 Mar 2012 11:57 AM

She's also on Pants on Fire Sunday in the New Orleans Handicap.  This looks to be a great race for older horses which unfortunately doesn't happen nowadays.  Nehro just missed the track record in his return from an 8 month layoff while under a hand ride.  I like a bomb in the La Derby named Afford who although breaks from the far outside is better off than the one hole.  Whoever wins will move into the top ten graded money so I'm hoping it's my pick.

28 Mar 2012 12:15 PM

Very nice to see Rosie get her due.  I agree with the poster above that she is one of the best jockeys in the business regardless of sex.  Let's sit back and watch her win with Pants on Fire and Mark Valeski this weekend. Thank you for this wonderful article.

28 Mar 2012 3:14 PM

Rosie has been doing great, and she's one of my favorite jockeys.

I'm going to be looking for a win with Rosie in the saddle, with both Mark Valeski and Pants On Fire, one of my favorites last year.

Actually, I watch a lot of racing, and I've been watching for a very long time.  Rosie's ride on St John's River in the Kentucky Oaks was one of the gutsiest, hairiest rides I've ever seen by any jockey ever.

Her ride on Pants On Fire in the Derby was superb.  She had him positioned perfectly in 4th to pounce.  If he hadn't bled, she would have won.  She knows what she's doing and what she wants.  

I give her all the credit in the world. She knows how to win, and she can still bounce back to do it.  New home, new husband, I hope she steals some time to just enjoy New Orleans.  Laissez les bons temps rouler!

28 Mar 2012 7:58 PM

Rosie is one of the best jocks riding period.Mark Valenski is lucky to have her.I am hoping for a winning ride on a real gutsy horse.Best of luck Rosie!!

28 Mar 2012 9:48 PM
Kelly Wietsma

Thank you Mr. Haskin for bringing to the fans all of Rosie's accomplishments. She loves Mark Valeski's chances in the LA Derby.  Had two bullet works leading up to this race and each time she rides him she talks about what a phenomenal horse he is.  For you Rosie fans who want to keep up on her this weekend she rides in the 1,3,8,9,10 & 11 today.  1,2,5,6,7,8,9 & 11 tomorrow.  2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 & 11 Saturday and

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12 & 13 Sunday!  Could be a monster end to a phenomenal meet for her!

29 Mar 2012 10:46 AM

We are all so proud of Rosie.  Wishing her all the sucess she so well deserves.  She is the best jockey ever.

We will be at the Fairgrounds cheering her on.  I'm her favorite fan and her Aunt.

Robin Napravnik

30 Mar 2012 9:20 AM


Best of luck.  We will be rooting for you.  You are the greatest!  We can't wait to meet you in person!  Aunt Robin's Friends Debi & Art

31 Mar 2012 4:11 PM
cuban chef de race

when they did ask in the poll question.who is going to win the florida derby? i did said take charge indy and my answer had to do with 2 answers.thunder gulch won the rensem  for fan and the breeders”cup race even as slow as it was also was a key race the favorite was good at 2 but  we are 3 now so some players will be dreaming with another thunder gulch and they will wake up with another nightmare  then i will tell borrel you are on the sire but what happen with the dam. that is talent but more then that is to love the game.

31 Mar 2012 8:18 PM
Uncle Smiley

The Louisiana Derby was a 30 to 1 fluke.  Happens all the time.

Watch RN's win in the 10th at the Big A last Saturday.

Steady from the outside to close at the end.

Just like Dominguez,  they both have that "Patened Delaware Close" to paraphrase Rich Glazer.


17 Apr 2012 9:54 PM

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