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This "Rosie" Ain't Got No Thorns

There’s a new jock in town and her name is Rosie Napravnik, or at least I think her name is Rosie. The racing program lists her as A. R. Napravnik. Some people call her Anna, some people call her Anna Rose, some call her Rose and some just call her Rosie. Anna, Rose, Anna Rose, Rosie, or whatever you call her, Ms. Napravnik just wants to be called first to the finish line.

Let’s settle this once and for all and refer to the 22 year-old native of Morristown, N.J. as Rosie, although she says she really has no preference. Rosie is basically new to the Fair Grounds, but she’s accomplished a lot in a very short time. She’s coming off of an incredible summer meeting at Delaware Park where she won 126 races and captured the leading rider title.

“I had a very good summer there,” said Napravnik, “and I decided to try a bigger meeting this winter, so I made the decision to come to the Fair Grounds. This is a very tough riding colony here and I wanted to test myself against these jocks and see how I fit with these riders. So far, it’s been great and it’s working out well.”

After only 10 days of racing Rosie is thrilled with the way things are going. “ I really thought it was going to be a wait and see process - they, meaning the trainers, kind of wait and see me ride and then I‘d maybe earn some chances. The response has been better than expected and I’m getting opportunities to ride a lot of live horses. I’m thrilled with where we’re at after only two weeks.”

Rosie has only been riding since 2005, so that means she was one of two females that took the country by storm that year. Hurricane Katrina left a few wet spots in south Louisiana, while Rosie was making a few waves herself. She won with her very first mount on a horse called Ringofdiamonds. The Rosie tidal wave continued to gain strength as she was the leading rider at all of the Maryland race tracks in 2006. She was the runner-up in the Eclipse Awards for leading apprentice at the end of that year.

Rosie fits here like red beans and rice and a splash of Tabasco sauce. She’s not only a smart rider, but she’s aggressive and gives a horse every shot to win. Trainer Mike Stidham agrees, “she’s a very talented rider with a big future, and in her case, gender doesn’t play a part because she’s a strong rider and can compete day in and day out with her male counterparts. Rosie is off to a good start and I’m going to ride her on a large portion of my stable.

She’s shown the ability to be an extremely patient rider, which will suit her well here at the Fair Grounds. Finally, in all my years on the race track, I have watched many female riders and by far the most accomplished was Julie Krone and I think Rosie is the first female rider that fits in that category to be as good as Julie or maybe even better with the right opportunities and that obviously would rank her with the best, male or female.”

Rosie is represented locally by jockey agent Derek Ducoing, son of trainer Sturges Ducoing. “Rosie has a number of positives about her, both personally and professionally. She has a very strong, I’m in charge here type of personality, about everything she’s doing and she’s well-liked by horsemen. Professionally, at 22 years-old, she’s as polished a rider as I’ve ever seen. It’s my job to get her as many live mounts as possible, and if I can do that, we’ll win our share of races. She’s a strong finisher and that strength fits well here.”

I agree with Mike and Derek about her patient and strong finishing style. One thing that I’ve noticed about Rosie is her ability to switch sticks in a flash. She was coming down the stretch on the turf course the other day and went from right-handed to left-handed without missing a beat. I remember thinking that she hits left-handed smoother than most left-handed jockeys.

So, for fear of ruffling some feathers of the National Organization for Women, let me make this statement. In a sport mostly dominated by the boys, Rosie Napravnik does not ride like a girl - she rides like a complete, polished, professional jockey and although the winter racing season is only 10 days old, I think even the most hard-core Fair Grounds railbirds will agree with that assessment. Rosie is cool, calm and collected. She’s a lady, but don’t let that fool you, because you just might get stuck by one of her thorns.