Breeders’ Cup: A Rosie Disposition

One of America’s most successful jockeys brings a rare blend of grace and grit to horse racing

Rosie Napravnik is not just the most successful woman jockey in horse racing. In a sport where female jockeys make up less than 10 percent of the contenders, Napravnik is one of America’s best jockeys, period. Ranked seventh in national earnings as of September—a step ahead of her eighth-place finishes in 2012 and 2013—the 26-year-old New Jersey native is the darling of race fans.

Hoping to be recognized for her skill rather than for her gender, she began her career using her initials A.R. (for Anna Rose), “so no one would know I was a girl,” she says. But the 5-foot-2-inch-tall, 113-pound Napravnik, now well known as Rosie, has nonetheless become a trailblazer for women.

In 2012, she became the second woman to win a Breeders’ Cup race when she steered Shanghai Bobby to victory in the Juvenile, shortly after becoming the first woman to win the Kentucky Oaks in the 138-year history of that race.

Last year, she became the first woman to ride in all three Triple Crown races in the same
year, finishing fifth—the
highest placing a woman has ever achieved—in the Kentucky Derby.  “When I was 7,
I set a goal to be the first woman to win the Triple Crown,” says the daughter of an event-horse trainer and a farrier.

After breaking the national earnings record for women jockeys in 2012, Napravnik broke her own record in 2013, amassing $13,242,202 in purses. Her 269 wins ranked her fifth among the top jockeys in North America. Yet amid all her success, the humble horsewoman keeps “a competitive state of mind.” “Just because I’m at the top right now, doesn’t mean that I’ll remain there,” she says.

Napravnik has more than proved her mettle to her male peers. She has broken her collarbone, her back, her arm twice, and her leg in the line of duty, and she is well known for her speedy return to the saddle. “Even the guys that gave me a hard time in the beginning found a respect for me,” she says, “I appreciate that, because a lot of times when you do well, you don’t have friends.”

Napravnik combines savvy riding with a remarkable ability to instill calm in a high-strung mount, a trait she likely developed from her lifelong history with the animals. Off the track, Napravnik gives back to horse racing. The striking blue-eyed redhead trades her jockey’s helmet for a couture racing hat. Her signature collection, sold online by Maggie Mae Designs, supports Old Friends, a Kentucky retired-Thoroughbreds facility for which Napravnik serves on the board of directors.

Watch for Napravnik wearing both of her hats at this year’s Breeders’ Cup.

 Breeders’ Cup By the Numbers

1:59:02 Fastest time ever in the Classic—a 1¼-mile long dirt race; set by Ghostzapper at Lone Star Park in 2004

14 Number of horses allowed in the Classic, all of which must be at least 3 years old

3 Most consecutive years finishing first in a Breeders’ Cup race; set by Goldikova in 2008, 2009, and 2010

$26 Million Total purses paid out for all 13 races

3,069 Number of Thoroughbreds that have run Breeders’ Cup races since its  inception in 1984

83.5 Percentage of Breeders’ Cup races won by a Kentucky-bred horse (167 out of  200); Ireland leads all foreign countries with 25 wins