by Rosie Napravnik, Jockey
What an amazing feeling it is when you can't imagine possibly being any happier! That is the way I have been feeling since I stood up in my irons after crossing the wire in the Kentucky Oaks! What an amazing filly Believe You Can is! When reporters and journalists asked me, "What is it like to win the KY Oaks?" I replied over and over again (as the question itself was asked 100 times), "It's just unbelievable!" I guess that's just what came out of my mouth because I didn't know what else to say, but it is actually far from the truth! I rode Believe You Can with tons of confidence.
She has been so impressive to me since I first sat on her. The first time I breezed her my reaction was, "Wow"! After riding and winning on the filly in the Silverbulletday Stakes and the Fair Grounds Oaks, I just felt like she was untouchable. Now maybe heading to the gate in the Kentucky Oaks I didn't feel "untouchable" but only because we were up against the best three-year-old fillies in the country. And this race was going to separate THE best from the rest of the group. But it almost scared me feeling that much confidence. When the gates opened, I was so focused. I wasn't worried about how the race would set up. I was focused on making it set up how exactly how I wanted it to, and I knew I had the right horse underneath me!
After the race I was on cloud nine! The next repeated question was "Does this take away some of the disappointment of being withdrawn from the Kentucky Derby?" The real answer to that is ... This WAS my Derby! I saw Kent Desormeaux on the apron at Belmont a few days ago and he congratulated me and also added that the Oaks was a race that he has yet to win. Kent is in the Hall of Fame! You can't imagine how special THAT made me feel! So I floated around on a cloud for a few days, but I also have had to keep my mind on business.
Maybe it's the horses, maybe it's just Larry Jones. It seems like I ride all of his horses with that kind of confidence! Saturday was no different when Larry gave me a leg up on Mark Valeski. Heck, maybe its Brereton Jones! Same connections all around except for this time the real (human) Mark Valeski was there to cheer us on, too! Apparently, we are all a great team :) I took Valeski away from the pony in post parade for the first time in the Peter Pan Stakes. The pony rider got confused on the route we were taking to the gate in the 1 1/8-mile chute, so I just walked up with the rest of the group and no pony. I'm telling you this horse couldn't be any classier! Valeski didn't have a care in the world. That's exactly the way he runs too! Not that he's not into his job but he just does it with such ease. We got a great trip outside and just waited. When the time was right, the horse kicked into gear like an automatic transmission on a (Ford) Mustang!
I have so many things to look forward to this spring/summer. Believe You Can's next race, Mark Valseki's next race, striving to stay near the top of the jockey standings at Belmont Park (I'm currently 2nd!), and heading into my first meet at Saratoga Race Course! I'm wearing the face of the happiest girl in the world :)
Rosie Napravnik after winning the 2012 Peter Pan Stakes aboard Mark Valeski