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Rosie Napravnik's star is rising

The penultimate race Jan. 20 at Fair Grounds, a maiden sprint, had been rained off the turf. Robby Albarado was hurt, Jamie Theriot was on one main-track-only entrant, and Miguel Mena was on another, so the mount on Close Ally, a Neil Howard-trained first-time starter, fell to Rosie Napravnik.

Bred like a grass horse, Close Ally escaped notice from bettors, going off at 30-1. As he lost some position around the far turn, falling back to seventh, the long price looked justified. But Napravnik was not giving up. As Close Ally gained momentum, the pace-setters began wilting, and suddenly, Close Ally, his jockey moving in perfect rhythm with lengthening strides, was gaining fast up the fence. Napravnik steered right as Close Ally whistled past a couple of horses, then deftly straightened out her inexperienced mount as he clipped by to win going away. Sure, the horse, it turned out, was ready and capable. The rider had made it look easy.

“She don’t take any prisoners, this girl,” Howard said the next morning. “She looks like a female Calvin Borel out there. She’s very, very heady.”

That’s a strong endorsement from a respected, veteran horseman who has trained a Horse of the Year and to whom Hall of Famer Pat Day was extremely loyal at the height of his powers. Consider also that Napravnik is far from a go-to jockey for Howard and has ridden only a handful of horses for him.

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