Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
by Rosie Napravnik, Jockey
I am sitting down, for what seems like the first time since I sat on Mark Valeski in the Louisiana Derby, to write my first ever "blog". Forgive me because I hardly know what a blog is! What should I blog about? Maybe I could reflect back on this past year..... I'd probably pass out! I think the last year of my life definitely goes under the roller coaster ride category! The man I love asked me to marry him (and I said yes), I won the leading rider title at Fairgrounds, I won the LA Derby for George and Lori Hall and Kelly Breen to top off the meet and it was also my first $1 million win, I rode my first meet at Keeneland, I rode in the Kentucky Derby thanks to the Hall's and Kelly for giving me the unbelievable opportunity. And then…I broke my arm. I spent 12 days in the hospital and underwent 4 surgeries. I had 3 1/2 months off. My philosophy on life = things happen for a reason. I had 3 months to plan our gorgeous wedding :) I spent the first of those 3 months with an amazing little girl named Aiyana, my step daughter to be. After our vows, and the best wedding in history, we were both off to work again. I rode my first race back at Delaware Park about a week later and my husband, Joe was off to the Fairgrounds where he started working as the assistant trainer for Mike Maker. For me, coming off this injury was hardly a process as it had always been in the past. I didn't feel like I had missed a race! Next stop Fairgrounds!
I was struck with luck again when owner Brereton Jones and trainer Larry Jones asked me to ride Mark Valeski in the Risen Star Stakes! After a huge effort from the big bay horse and yet a heartbreaking 2nd place photo finish... it was on to the Louisiana Derby again! Valeski was an easy horse to fall in love with. He exudes class and has a huge heart! He is the type of horse that can make your day just from sitting on his back and even better breezing him. It was such a shame that we got beat in the LA Derby considering all that the horse had to overcome. He lost a front shoe…That's like running with one sneaker! So it's fingers crossed that that we make it to the Derby (as of this writing I hear we are #20 on the earnings list which should get us in)!! Meanwhile, both of the Jones' also gave me the chance to ride a little filly named Believe You Can! She ran lights out in the Silverbulletday Stakes and after a disappointing 4th in the Rachel Alexandra, when she came out of the race with a significant excuse; she performed like a champion in the Fairgrounds Oaks. Let me tell you, this little thing has maybe more heart than any horse I've ever sat on. With crazy fractions in the first half while running just behind and to the inside of the leader BYC dug in to hold off another tough filly!
It's been less than 2 weeks since the LA Derby, although it seems like it's been a month, considering the things I've done and places I've been in that time. My husband Joe and I not only had a huge weekend of racing ahead those last days at the Fairgrounds but we also had to move out of our beloved New Orleans home right in the middle of it! Making the decision to move permanently to New York has been super exciting as well as slightly stressful. I am still stunned and extremely grateful for the support that I received in New Orleans from many of the local trainers as well as many trainers from KY who have horses at the Fairgrounds. It was unbelievable to have won the Leading Rider title at the Fairgrounds in 2011 and it was just as exciting to be able to snag it for the second straight year ;) Not to mention moving into our new home that we had purchased just before leaving the previous season. So you can imagine how even though there are endless pros to moving my tack and our lives to NY, it was not so easy to leave the Big Easy! Which, by the way, happens to be "the best place on Earth" in my opinion! But…opportunities arise... and success is taking advantage of them. I figured that getting an offer from the top agent in the business to be a part of the best racing on the planet was one of those opportunities!
My first morning out at Belmont, was refreshing. It's amazing how many people we all know in this business and it really was great to see all of the NY faces! I believe the first person I saw was Billy Badget, one of the trainers who rode me on many of his horses during my first winter at Aqueduct. Coincidentally my first mount back in NY was for Billy. I also spent some time in Todd Pletcher's office. It's always nice to see his smiling face :) And later at the clockers stand I saw a bunch of people... trainers, agents, jocks...but I spent most of my time there chatting with Kiaran McLaughlin. I'll never forget what Kiaran said to me. "After 2 years at the Fairgrounds there must be a lot of maturing that you've done since you were here last." He is absolutely right! Those Cajun jocks taught me a lot!
My first day riding at Aqueduct was a little "slow". We didn't have any winners.... but that happens. I was anxious to get the "monkey off my back"! After flying to Hawthorne and finishing 2nd in the Illinois Derby, on Morgan's Guerrilla for Mike Maker it was back to Aqueduct on Wednesday. And wouldn't you know it...we got "off the duck" :) A win on the Jimmy Jerkens trained filly Castles Burning marked my first win of what will hopefully be many this year in NY. We followed it up Thursday with a nice win for Mark Hennig on Lily Lynn.
Saturday was an amazing day! I rode three for Pletcher, two for Chad Brown, one for Tony Dutrow, and one for Dominic Galluscio. I won four and placed in two. Needless to say, I was pumped when I boarded a private plane (only way I would have made it on time) to fly to Charlestown, WV that same night to hop aboard one of my FAVORTIE horses, Pants On Fire in The $1M Charles Town Classic! Unfortunately, the rest of the day didn't end as well as it started…we finished sixth. I really wanted to win for George, Lori and Kellly because they all believed in me so much and have given me such wonderful opportunities. It wasn't for a lack of trying…we both gave it our best…just came up short. It's a part of the game that's hard to get used to because I always go out to win.
Aside from all the excitement I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my husband who will be here after the Keeneland meet, although we are both hoping we will be returning to NY together after the KY Derby ;) Being part of the Maker team, Joe will of course be rooting for Hansen while I am still waiting to see if Mark Valeski will be running in the Derby! If for some reason Valeski doesn't run then there may be other possibilities for a mount. Joe will have a string of horses at Belmont for Maker so the move to NY is an opportunity for both of us in the highest level of horse racing and we are planning to milk it for all it's got! And…it just so happens that we have done quite well in doing business together. I was given tons of support from Mike Maker at Fairgrounds and I'm hoping that it will carry on here at Belmont!
Thank you so much for all the support and well wishes. I look forward to chatting with you again soon.
All the best!
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