Updated on 05/06/2012 2:51PM

Kentucky Oaks: Believe You Can enables Napravnik to earn historic victory

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Tom Keyser
Rosie Napravnik (orange cap) becomes the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Oaks when she guides Believe You Can to victory by three-quarters of a length over Broadway's Alibi.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – On a day dedicated to ladies, how appropriate that it was Rosie Napravnik who became the first woman jockey ever to win the Kentucky Oaks.

Napravnik, riding Believe You Can for former Kentucky Gov. Brereton C. Jones and trainer Larry Jones, gave several joyful waves of her whip when her mount crossed under the wire a three-quarters-of-a-length winner over a gritty Broadway’s Alibi on Friday in the 138th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Oaks at Churchill Downs.

Believe You Can, a 13-1 shot, returned $29.60 after finishing the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:49.50 over a fast track. Broadway’s Alibi was another 2 1/2 lengths before Grace Hall, the 5-2 favorite, with Summer Applause fourth and On Fire Baby fifth in a field of 14 3-year-old fillies.

Napravnik, one of the rising stars in the game, wiped away tears of joy as she jogged her mount back toward the winners’ circle. The 24-year-old native of New Jersey barely missed winning the Oaks last year when St. John’s River fell a neck short of catching Plum Pretty.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Napravnik. “I couldn’t even tell you what I’m feeling. It feels like when your dreams are coming true. The filly is all talent and all heart and she certainly showed that today.”

[KENTUCKY OAKS: Video updates from Churchill Downs]

No woman had won either the Derby or Oaks until Napravnik pulled her feat Friday. She was scheduled to ride in the Derby for a second straight year, but the Joneses (no relation) declared Mark Valeski from Derby contention earlier this week.

Both Joneses were teaming for their second Oaks win, having won four years ago with Proud Spell, the eventual Eclipse champion in the division.

“This is just wonderful,” said Brereton Jones, who bred the mare El Fasto to Proud Citizen, one of the stallions he stands at his Airdrie Stud, to get homebred Believe You Can. “It doesn’t get much better than this.”

Before an ontrack throng of 112,552, and amid trying weather conditions that included the threat of severe weather about an hour before scheduled post time, Broadway’s Alibi shot out from post 6 to grab the lead into the first turn, with Believe You Can (post 9) sticking close to her outside and longshot Colonial Empress outside of them. Midway through the final turn, as On Fire Baby struggled to keep up with the top two from a good inside stalking spot, Grace Hall angled out to challenge but could make no headway. That left Broadway’s Alibi and jockey John Velazquez, racing closest to the rail, to fight it out with Believe You Can on her outside.

“I just had the horse underneath me,” said Napravnik, the dominant rider at Fair Grounds the last year and more recently a new regular on the New York circuit. “It was cool to see Johnny fading away behind me.”

“We knew this filly was going to give us her best,” said Larry Jones, who recently saw the 2011 Horse of the Year, Havre de Grace, leave his stable for retirement. “She had that ‘wow’ thing going, which you need to win this kind of race. I really think the Derby and Oaks are the two biggest races in the world, so obviously we’re very proud to win the Oaks for a second time.”

[KENTUCKY OAKS DAY: Full card results and video replays]

Believe You Can earned $564,200 with her sixth victory from her ninth career start, bringing her career bankroll to $1,059,484. Her most notable prior wins included the Grade 3 Tempted at Belmont Park at 2 and the Silverbulletday and Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks earlier this year in New Orleans.

Broadway’s Alibi missed out on a third Oaks victory for Todd Pletcher.

“She ran great; second best,” said Pletcher. “They took it to each other from the get-go. Boy, she fought hard. I’m pretty proud of her effort. Hate to run that well and run second.”

Grace Hall was ridden by Javier Castellano, who was thrown from his mount, Star Channel, in the prior race, the American Turf. Castellano rode with a bandage under his swollen left eye but was otherwise unhurt. He is scheduled to ride Gemologist in the 138th Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

“I had a perfect spot but I don’t find the best kick,” said Castellano.

After the top five, the order was Hard Not to Like, Sacristy, Amie’s Dini, And Why Not, Jemima’s Pearl, Colonial Empress, Karlovy Vary, Yara, and Eden’s Moon.

Eden’s Moon was not a factor after encountering major traffic trouble behind Colonial Empress heading into the first turn.

The attendance was the second-most in Oaks history. Fans endured stifling heat from the morning hours until a storm hit the area, forcing temporary evacuation of the infield and the outside seating areas. Fans were permitted to return to those areas after track officials decided the storm had sufficiently passed.

The $2 exacta (9-6) paid $173, the $1 trifecta (9-6-2) returned $393.60, and the $1 superfecta (9-6-2-3) was worth $1,872.70.

No one hit the $2 pick six that ended with the Oaks, resulting in a carryover of nearly $270,000, which means horseplayers should have a huge target for Derby Day, when the guaranteed pool of $500,000 is now moot.

- additional reporting by David Grening