05/02/2014 6:29PM

Napravnik gets another career highlight with second Kentucky Oaks win

Barbara D. Livingston
Jockey Rosie Napravnik celebrates after winning the Kentucky Oaks with Untapable on Friday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – As the trophy presentation for the 140th Kentucky Oaks concluded, the song “Girl On Fire” came blaring through the loudspeakers at Churchill Downs.

They could have been playing that for jockey Rosie Napravnik, who continued her sensational year – and career – with a stirring 4 1/2-length victory aboard the favored Untapable in Friday’s Grade 1, $1 million Oaks. It was the second time in three years that Napravnik won the Oaks, having captured it for the first time in 2012 on Believe You Can.

“Last time, we were a longshot, and it was a real storybook ending winning the race,” Napravnik said. “Today, we were the favorite; everything was done right. Steve [Asmussen] has done such a great job with this filly. Everything went perfectly. It really was a great win.”

In the 2012 Oaks, the stretch battle was a dogfight, Believe You Can edging away late from Broadway’s Alibi to win by three-quarters of a length. On Friday, Napravnik had the final three-sixteenths of a mile to think about the win as Untapable ran away from My Miss Sophia.

“Today, it was let’s put her on display,” Napravnik said. “This is who she is – she’s very, very good.”

Napravnik, 26, continues to be very, very good. After once again dominating the Fair Grounds meet, Napravnik has gotten off to a sizzling start at Churchill Downs, riding 11 winners in the first five days of the meet. It would have been 12, but she was disqualified from first aboard Bayern in the Derby Trial, for which she received a suspension that she will serve next week.

This year, Napravnik has won 104 races – ranking her fourth nationally – and after the Oaks win, she ranks second in purse money won with $5,118,170.

“It’s been an absolutely wonderful year, a bunch of graded stakes wins so far,” said Napravnik, who has won seven graded stakes. “Doing well here at Churchill. Hopefully, with the upcoming suspension, we can keep our heads above water and stay on top.”

It is with the support of horsemen like Asmussen that Napravnik has been able to maintain her position among the elite riders in the sport. She has won 68 races over the last few years for Asmussen, including going 12 for 36 for him this year.

“Riding Rosie over the last few winters in New Orleans on several horses, having success with her, liking her demeanor, especially with someone as talented as Untapable, who can be a touch on the moody side – I think it’s a perfect match,” Asmussen said. “The development of the filly and stuff, I think Rosie’s been a key part of it.”

Though Asmussen is among the current trainers giving Napravnik support, she can never forget that it was Richard Small who helped get her career started. Small died this year, and Napravnik said he is never far from her thoughts.

“I think about Dickie, especially on days like today, especially on days like tomorrow, Derby Day, just reflecting on where I came from,” Napravnik said. “Knowing how proud he was when I won the Oaks the first time, he was the first person who popped in my head.

“Today, I know how proud he’d be,” Napravnik added. “I always remember him chuckling, ‘I just get such a kick out of you.’ I know he’s watching, and [I’m] very happy to make him proud.”

Napravnik will try to do one better Saturday when she rides Vicar’s in Trouble in the Kentucky Derby. It will be her third appearance in the Derby, having finished fifth last year on Mylute and ninth in 2011 on Pants On Fire.