Rosie Napravnik Hopes to Make History as First Female Kentucky Derby Winner
In one of sports' biggest boys clubs, the 25-year-old jockey would be the first to win the Derby in 138 years
Rosie Napravnik is on the verge of accomplishing something no woman has done – or even come close to doing – in 138 years.
On Saturday, she’ll attempt to win the Kentucky Derby.
A New Jersey native now living and training in New Orleans, Napravnik, 25, has racked up more than 1,500 racing wins since she began competing at age 17, including last year’s Kentucky Oaks, a race for fillies that has never previously been won by a female jockey.
Two years ago, the 5’2, 113 lb. jockey finished ninth in the Derby, the best a woman has ever done.
Racing, she says, is “when I’m most comfortable.” She’s comfortable at the top, too. According to 60 Minutes, which profiled her Sunday, she’s placed first, second or third in nearly 60 percent of her races this year.
Of course, in the male dominated sport of thoroughbred racing, not everyone is so comfy with her.
“Most of the time, I feel like I’m just one of the guys,” she said in her interview, though the exceptions to the rule have been glaring. She’s been told to, ” ‘Go home and have a baby, go home and stay in the kitchen,’ ” and male jockeys “gave me a pretty hard time. They would try to intimidate me in the races,” she says, adding that they “try to put me in a tight spot up against the rail or in between two horses. It’s something that I had to go through more than once.”
“There are still owners and trainers who don’t want to [work with] a female. The only way that I deal with that is to try to beat that person in a race,” she says.
Her horse on Saturday, a colt named Mylute, is not a favorite to win, but his jockey is on a hot streak, and has always had a special connection with her racing partners.
“There’s a special something she has that gets those horses to put in a little extra effort,” her sister Jazz told 60 Minutes. “And she has a special connection that no one can really put words to.”
Her life as a horsewoman began showing and racing ponies, but Napravnik’s ultimate goal was apparent early on.
As her mother told the show, when the little equestrian was just 7 years old, she announced that she wanted to win the Triple Crown Races.
At 6:24 p.m. ET Saturday, she’ll get her chance.