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Rosie Napravnik, McAnally filly All Star Heart have resiliency in common
By Jay Hovdey
For starters, it is important to point out that Rosie Napravnik does not get hurt every time she comes off a horse. It only seems that way.
She got right to her feet last Nov. 6 on the first turn of the Churchill Downs grass course when her mount in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, Rough Sailing, skidded and fell. Napravnik’s concern was immediately for her horse, and rightly so. Although he got up and trotted off, Rough Sailing was injured beyond repair.
Then there was that day at Aqueduct in March 2009 when Napravnik and four other riders hit the deck on the turn for home. All they lacked was Charlton Heston and a few chariots. The fact that only one of the jockeys needed hospitalization was a miracle, and it wasn’t Rosie.
There is a case to be made, however, for the existence of a genuine Rosie Napravnik voodoo doll out there somewhere in malevolent hands, perhaps perched on a dark shelf next to an Evel Knievel bobblehead, mistreated at the whim of the demented owner. Either that or Napravnik’s got a fat government grant for the study of sudden, high-speed impact on the body of a 23-year-old red-haired athlete.
Anyway, North America’s most successful female jockey is hurt again. This time it’s her left arm, fractured on Wednesday at Delaware Park when her mount, the 4-year-old filly Naseeb, broke a leg racing near the rail just behind the leaders in a five-furlong grass event. Napravnik hung on briefly then was popped off to her right, which would not have been her first choice since there were horses behind her at the time. Naseeb did not survive.
Napravnik was leading the Delaware Park standings at the time, which was in keeping with the momentum of her Fair Grounds title from earlier this year. Of immediate heartbreak, however, was the loss of a chance to win Saturday’s $300,000 Delaware Oaks aboard St. John’s River, the filly with whom Napravnik nearly took the Kentucky Oaks. There was also a date later in the month with her Louisiana Derby winner Pants On Fire in the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth.
Even though Napravnik’s earlier injuries might not have been as expensive, they were no less painful. And yes, because she is who she is we’re keeping track:
Nov. 12, 2005. Laurel Park. First race. Napravnik is part of a four horse spill when the horse in front of her clips heels and falls. Damage – fractured left clavicle.
Jan. 26, 2007. Laurel Park. Sixth race. Napravnik’s mount, Look Out Lorie, falls while galloping out. Damage -- compression fractures of three thoracic vertebrae.
July 6, 2007. Colonial Downs. Sixth race. Napravnik’s mount, Afleet Lulu, suffers a fatal ankle fracture and falls. Damage – broken wrist and finger.
Aug. 2, 2008. Delaware Park. Nick Shuk Memorial Stakes. Napravnik goes down when her mount clips heels with a horse that veered into their path. Damage – fractured the tibia and fibula of her left leg.
Here’s hoping the entry of July 7, 2011, at Delaware Park is the last for a long while. In the meantime if she needs it, and she probably doesn’t, Napravnik can take inspiration from the performance of All Star Heart in the feature race on Thursday at Hollywood Park.
This is the same 4-year-old daughter of Arch who hit the deck last Feb. 3 at Santa Anita when she did a version of Rough Sailing and slipped on a patch of loose grass at a point on the final turn just as she was getting revved up for a big finish. After reaching out and cornering, her hind end was suddenly gone and she skidded, tossing Brice Blanc, before scrambling back to her feet.
In her comeback race, All Star Heart took the corresponding corner at Hollywood as if she fully intended to complete the job she had started five months earlier. Blanc rode her without hesitation and they were rewarded with a stylish win over a solid allowance field. Her trainer, Ron McAnally, explained what he did to get her there.
“She was walking off behind, on the side she fell on, so we took some X-rays,“ McAnally said. “We couldn’t find anything, but she was still kind of walking on her toe, on that left hind. We thought it had to be something in her foot because there wasn‘t any filling around her pastern, or her ankle, so we kept poulticing her, tubbing her, putting packs on her feet – everything you’re supposed to do. But nothing would come out. She would walk pretty good, but the minute we put the tack on her and start jogging her she’d be off.”
A subsequent nuclear scan lit up a small spot on the left hind pastern, but x-rays were still negative. McAnally and his crew returned to 19th century horsemanship, tubbing, poulticing and packing the foot.
“Finally we started jogging her again and she was going sound,” McAnally said. “You do worry if falling like that will affect them mentally. But we tried to do enough with her so she’d have something else to think about. Whatever it was is still a mystery. But after all that, she started training better than any horse in the barn.”
McAnally celebrates his 79th birthday on Monday, which means he’s just now getting the hang of his job. Keeping things in perspective, the “barn” to which he referred has at one time or another been home to Hall of Famers John Henry, Bayakoa, and Paseana, champions Northern Spur and Tight Spot and a vast herd of major stakes winners. Right now McAnally’s name horse is Éclair de Lune, who will defend her title in the Beverly D. at Arlington Park next month.
As for All Star Heart, she might develop into something special for McAnally and her owner-breeder, Gerald Gibbs. For now, though, they will take it slow. If nothing else, she has earned hands-down the title of this week’s Thoroughbred who lived up to her name.
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