By Esther Marr
Jockey Rosie Napravnik didn't have much time to celebrate her historic triumph as the first female to capture the leading rider title at Keeneland at the conclusion of the meet Oct. 27. After "sleeping in" until about 9 a.m. the next day, the 25-year-old hit the road to Louisville to prepare for the 10 mounts she was slated to ride at Churchill Downs.
"I've had the busiest year of my life," said Napravnik, who has made the 80-mile trek from Lexington to Louisville almost on a daily basis over the last several weeks.
Napravnik's husband, Joe Sharp, is an assistant to Mike Maker, who is based at Keeneland. During the fall meet, Napravnik drove many early mornings to Louisville to breeze horses at Churchill, and then returned to Lexington to ride races at Keeneland in the afternoons.
"I haven't had many breaks or an off season this year, but when you're having a good meet, it makes it a lot easier," said Napravnik, who clinched the Keeneland title with 17 victories. One of her best days came Friday, Oct. 25, when she had four winners on the same card. Napravnik ranks fifth among leading riders in North America this year with 226 wins and $11,639,613 in mount earnings.
Napravnik on Hillard Lyons Doubldogdare (gr.III) winner Ice Cream Silence during Keeneland's spring meet; photo courtesy of Keeneland
"I wasn't sure if (winning the Keeneland title) would ever happen," said Napravnik, a three-time title holder at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. "Keeneland is so competitive every year, so it's very exciting to win the title."
Napravnik also rode during Keeneland's spring meet, and then moved to Saratoga Race Course for the summer before transitioning to Churchill for its inaugural September meet. Since Keeneland's fall meet is now concluded, Napravnik will ride at Churchill for the rest of the season, with the exception of traveling to California for the Breeders' Cup World Championships next weekend.
Napravnik is scheduled to ride Untapable for trainer Steve Asmussen in the Nov. 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). The daughter of Tapit is undefeated in two starts, including a victory in the Sept. 7 Pocahantas (gr. II) at Churchill.
"(The Pocahontas) was really a lot to ask in her second time out, so I think she's really talented," said Napravnik. "I'm excited to see how she progresses and how she does against some of the best horses in the country."
Of all the tracks at which Napravnik rides, there's no place quite like Keeneland. The jockey said she's grateful the Lexington oval is now part of her yearly circuit.
"Keeneland is such a well-regarded meet," she said. "It's a very traditional racetrack with a lot of big races. Everyone comes to the races at Keeneland...there are good horses and it's nice to see the full grandstands there. Even this weekend when it was 40 degrees and raining, there were still a lot of fans out there, so I give them a lot of credit."
Trainer Rusty Arnold managed to keep his longtime Keeneland win streak alive on the final day of the fall meet Oct. 26, when he saddled Exothermic to a come-from-behind victory in the eighth race.
According to Keeneland officials, the Paris, Ky., resident has had at least one winner at Keeneland since the spring of 1986 except for one meet in the late 1980s where he did not start a horse. That would be 55 Keeneland meets where Arnold has saddled at least one horse that has registered a victory.
Rusty Arnold; photo by Anne M. Eberhardt
Exothermic, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Empire Maker, won for the third time in seven starts for Arnold. The Green Lantern Stables homebred, who is out of the Caesour mare Irridescence, boosted his earnings to $102,330 with his most recent score.
The dark bay or brown colt completed the one-mile allowance contest in 1:37.58 as the 3-1 favorite under jockey Corey Lanerie.
Read more about Rusty Arnold in Frank Angst's previous Keeneland files entry.
Click here to read a recap of Keeneland's fall meet, complete with wagering statistics and information on other meet leaders.