04/29/2013 1:36PM

Kentucky Derby: Rosie Napravnik aces '60 Minutes' interview

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Barbara D. Livingston
Rosie Napravnik, being interviewed last summer at Saratoga, appeared on “60 minutes” Sunday. She rides Mylute in the Kentucky Derby.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Cameras were clicking on the Churchill Downs backstretch Monday morning, the norm in the media storm of Derby Week. Most were focused on the racetrack, capturing the leading Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks runners as they galloped and breezed around the track.

But at least a couple others were aimed at a jockey, Rosie Napravnik, as she merely walked the Churchill backstretch in the midst of one of many media interviews she is sure to have this week. Twice in a five-minute span, people with cell-phone cameras snapped her photo, as if they were photographing a television star.

In a way they were. Just the night before, Napravnik, 25, was featured in a 13-minute segment on “60 Minutes,” one of the most-watched programs on television. According to Nielsen ratings, the show regularly draws more than 10 million viewers a week.

“You get a little nervous and hope it turns out well, but they did an excellent job with it,” she said of the “60 Minutes” interview. “I think it was really good for the sport, especially this time of year.”

The interview with correspondent Bob Simon, called “Rosie’s Run for the Roses,” profiled her achievements as a female rider in a male-dominated profession; her family’s hands-on, blue-collar involvement in the horse industry; and her quest to win the Kentucky Derby.

Napravnik said the filming lasted several months, beginning in late January when juvenile champion Shanghai Bobby finished second under her in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream. Camera crews then filmed her at her winter base at Fair Grounds, capturing her riding at that track, and interviewed her in her New Orleans home. Other footage was shot at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky.

Napravnik was affable and professional throughout the television interview, and couldn’t be baited by Simon into silliness. When she described “smooching” to a horse during a race – a kissing-like sound made by jockeys to encourage their mounts to run faster – Simon asked her to “smooch” for the television audience, a question unlikely to have been asked of a male jockey.

“I’m not going to make the noise on “60 Minutes,” she told him bluntly but with a smile. “I have limits.”

The “60 Minutes” crew seemed to be betting on Shanghai Bobby being Napravnik’s mount in the Kentucky Derby, interviewing the colt’s trainer, Todd Pletcher, and filming Shanghai Bobby in both the Holy Bull and when he ran fifth in the Florida Derby.

But when Shanghai Bobby ran poorly in the Florida Derby, and was later discovered to have pelvic stress fracture, he fell off the Derby trail.

Instead, her Derby mount will come aboard Louisiana Derby runner-up Mylute, a horse deemed a longshot by most handicappers, though perhaps not ultimately by the betting public, with Napravnik’s growing fan base sure to support her.

She would become the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Derby. Six females have ridden in the race – Napravnik, Diane Crump, P.J. Cooksey, Andrea Seefeldt, Julie Krone, and Rosemary Homeister Jr. – and none has come close to victory.

Napravnik’s ninth-place finish aboard Pants On Fire in 2011 ranks as the best finish.

It speaks of Napravnik’s popularity that when she rode Pants On Fire in 2011 the horse went off as the 8-1 second choice in the betting despite being 20-1 odds on the morning line. And that was long before “60 Minutes,” and, for that matter, a recent profile in New York Times Magazine.

“I think the ‘Rosie effect’ puts Mylute somewhere around 15-1 instead of the 25-1 or 30-1 he should be,” said Mylute’s trainer, Tom Amoss.

Meanwhile, in the days leading up to the Derby, Napravnik is simply enjoying the small things that have come from her “60 Minutes” fame.

“Hey,” she said, pointing down to her phone in the midst of walking the backstretch. “I picked up 400 more ‘likes’ on Facebook since last night.”

The full “60 Minutes” interview can be viewed online at www.cbsnews.com/60-minutes/.