Photo: Jim McCue/MJC
Jockey Rosie Napravnik, who became just the sixth female to ride
in the Kentucky Derby (G1) last May when she piloted George and Lori
Hall’s Pants On Fire to a ninth-place finish, will be aboard the Hall’s
2011 Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Ruler On Ice in Saturday’s $500,000 Donn
(G1) at Gulfstream Park.
Currently the leading rider at the Fair Grounds, Napravnik was named to
ride the classic winner by trainer Kelly Breen. The Donn also features
Preakness (G1) winner Shackleford and the undefeated Trickmeister.
“She’s been riding up a storm at Fair Grounds,” said Breen, whose
gelding had been ridden last year by Jose Valdivia and, most recently,
Garrett Gomez. “With Garrett Gomez out (with an injury), it’s an
opportunity to go with Rosie.”
Napravnik, who will be riding at Gulfstream for the first time since
2008, is named on three other horses during the course of the afternoon,
which features four graded stakes races.
“When I heard Kelly Breen and the Halls were reaching out to me to ride
a horse of this caliber, who has accomplished so much, I felt extremely
lucky,” Napravnik said. “The Halls are great people and we’ve developed
quite a rapport. They’re not afraid to give someone a chance, and they
had great confidence in me going into the Derby last year.”
Napravnik believes she’s become a different rider in the four years between visits to Gulfstream.
“I always like to think I’m improving,” Napravnik said. “After each
meet, I look back and think I’m coming out a better rider than I was
going in. I’d like to think there’s a big difference between me as a
rider now as compared to 2008. Hopefully on Saturday that will be
Throughout her career, Napravnik – who Thursday celebrated her 24th
birthday – has been leading rider at Pimlico, Laurel and Delaware. Last
year she became the first female to win the riding title in the history
of the Fair Grounds.
A victory in Saturday’s Donn would be the first Grade 1 win of her career.
“Last year the Louisiana Derby was my first million dollar win and it
was also Kelly’s first million dollar win,” Napravnik said. “Now we’re
going for a Grade 1.”
Ruler On Ice will be making his first start since a fifth-place finish
in the Clark (G1) at Churchill Downs last November when ridden by Gomez.
One start earlier, the gelded son of Roman Ruler rallied late to be
third in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Three races prior to the Donn, Pants On Fire – with Napravnik aboard –
is scheduled to make his turf debut in an allowance/optional claiming
event. Saturday’s start will be Pants On Fire’s first since a
fifth-place finish in the 2011 Haskell (G1) last July and third since
his ninth-place Derby finish.