Rosie Napravnik celebrates her win in the Kentucky Oaks. She is the first female jockey to win the race in the history of its running. - Matthew Stockman
After an utterly dominant meet at the Fair Grounds, a Kentucky Oaks and a Breeders' Cup Juvenile win, Rosie Napravnik ends up the year ranked 8th in overall earnings in North America.
Rosie Napravnik has established herself as one of the top jocks in North America. It makes no difference that she's a woman, she's being sought out for the biggest mounts running in the biggest races. Following is a list of female jockeys that have cracked the top ten in yearly earnings:
- Julie Krone - 9th (1988)
- Julie Krone - 9th (1992)
- Rosie Napravnik - 8th (2012)
That's a pretty exclusive list. Krone was not only a fantastic rider, but she is a Hall of Famer, so it's quite elite company she is keeping. Let's take a look at her career's trajectory thus far.
Rosie has been very consistent since coming onto the scene as an apprentice in 2006.
As a bug boy (or I guess girl, so we'll go with bug girl) she finished second to Julien Leparoux as the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey. Clearly, she's never lacked for talent.
But what allowed her to make such a leap from just very good jockey to top ten jockey? Well, we know this year she was trusted with superb G1-type horses like Shanghai Bobby, Believe You Can, Pantsonfire, King David, etc. In fact, her 2011 Graded Stakes earnings were $1,239,697. But this year, Rosie upped her GS winnings by an incredible 310% to $5,085,697.
Oddly enough, her win% is actually at the lowest of her career since beginning to ride full time, as is her in the money (ITM%) percentage. Her stats across the board are both very good and very consistent in that she doesn't ride fillies and mares better, or run on the turf better, or ride maidens better. She's just good at everything.
So what is the difference? In my opinion, three horses nicely sum up her step up this year:
- Mark Valeski
- Kentucky Oaks Champion Believe You Can
- The Presumptive Juvenile Champion Shanghai Bobby
It seems like a million years ago, but Mark Valeksi quickly accumulated a ton of hype with two strong seconds in the G2-Risen Star and G2- Lousiana Derby. Rosie lost the two races by just a nose and half-length respectively. While he didn't run in the Derby, he turned around and won the G2-Peter Pan at Belmont in convincing fashion, continuing to drive at the line after coming 4 wide around the turn and still win by a length and a quarter. Napravnik unquestionably demonstrated the ability to ride a good horse in big races and get the maximum potential to show. Unfortunately Mark Valeski has been sidelined since June due to a chip in his knee.
In concert with her success in the Derby Preps, Rosie was aboard Believe You Can as she worked towards the Kentucky Oaks. She won the Silverbulletday and the G2-Fair Grounds Oaks, both over the highly regarded Summer's Applause. As the Oaks approached on the Friday before the Derby, Believe You Can got little respect, in fact, she went off as the 6th favorite. Rosie masterfully sat just off the lead and took control of the race in the stretch, winning by 3/4 of a length. Napravnik showed she could ride her best race in a tough spot.
Both Mark Valeski and Believe You Can are Brereton C. Jones-owned and Larry Jones-trained runners that came up through the Louisiana path pointed at the first weekend in May at Churchill. It makes sense that the best rider at Fair Grounds would be the go-to-jock. But what I believe it did was demonstrate to the other trainers that Rosie was indeed able to put every mount in a position to win in the big races, and it opened some eyes.
Shanghai Bobby steamrolled his competition as a Juvenile. But it isn't really the horse that was the difference for Rosie, it's the connections she made and kept that really expanded her mounts into another stratosphere. Shanghai Bobby, as the clear top choice after two starts for best Juvenile, could have any jock up on him. But Pletcher chose and stuck with Napravnik, first at Aqueduct and continuing at Saratoga and Belmont. Additionally, Pletcher put her on Kauai Katie, (one of) his juvenile filly superstars. While the Pletcher barn is too big to have one go-to-jock, clearly Todd Pletcher is confident enough in her abilities that he would put her on anything.
But just as importantly, her permanent rider status on an Eclipse Champion signals that her move to riding full time on the NYRA circuit during the summer moving between Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga after wintering in Louisiana, was not only a good move professionally, but that the elite trainers, owners, and horses are more than ready to accept her at the highest levels. Her meet at the Spa this summer was a great example. She didn't dominate in terms of wins or anything like that. But she got a mount nearly every race is impressive in and of itself. Look at the riders in a MSW in July at Saratoga: Castellano, Cohen, Ortiz Jr, Dominguez, Leparoux, Maragh, Prado. That could be a G1 field of hand selected Jockeys and Rosie had a mount in 8-10 races a day.
Honestly, she's one of my favorite Jockeys. She will almost always give a consistent ride that plays to the strengths of the horse, from what I've seen. Whereas I will see Mike Smith throw a clunker (Zenyatta), or a good horse be inexplicably hit (Questing), or a top jock on a great horse give up a second too soon (Black Caviar), I am confident that I'm not going to see a huge mistake when Rosie Napravnik is aboard. It's great to see her success this year and I certainly hope she continues her amazing run towards the top of the jock standings.
(h/t to the regular sources, Equibase, Bloodhorse, etc. A couple great pieces about Rosie out there from the NYTimes, Bloodhorse, and some other local news sources. Additionally, the Paulick Report posted a great interview with Rosie Napravnik on January 4th.)