Return to Pimlico will be bittersweet for Napravnik
|Rosie Napravnik is returning to where her career started for the Preakness
(Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club)
When Rosie Napravnik ventures to Pimlico to ride Bayern in next Saturday's
139th running of the Preakness, the 26-year-old riding star can expect an
A familiar face will not be there to greet her. Trainer Dickie Small, who
gave her a leg up on her very first winner, passed away on April 4.
"There'll be a void at Pimlico," said Napravnik, who guided the Small-trained
Ringofdiamonds to victory at Pimlico in her first career ride on June 9, 2005.
"When I ride in big races and do well, he's one of the first people I think of.
I know how proud of me he would be."
Small's presence will be missed next weekend, but Napravnik can expect a lot
of support from family and friends at Pimlico as she attempts to realize a
schoolgirl's dream of someday winning the Preakness Stakes, as well as the
"It would be just as special. It's a Triple Crown race. It's my home track
with all my friends and family around. We'd have half the grandstand cheering
for us -- that's what would make it special," said Napravnik, who began
galloping horses for Small and trainer Holly Robinson at Pimlico while attending
Hereford High School in Baltimore County.
"I would feel like -- if I was able to ride the winner of the Preakness --
that I was doing it for everybody who got me started in Maryland and who gave me
the opportunities that led to Fair Grounds, Kentucky and Saratoga and having a
horse in the Preakness."
Napravnik, who finished third aboard Mylute in last year's Preakness,
expressed a lot of confidence in the abilities of Bayern, despite his
disqualification from first to second in the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs on
"Coming out of the 1 hole, we had to play a forced hand and go to the lead
and it was deeper on the inside of the track. He still ran a good race. He was a
game horse," Napravnik said. "The DQ, I don't have much to say about that. He
won the race and had to be very gritty to do it."
Napravnik's confidence in Bayern soared during a subsequent five-furlong
workout in :58 1/5 at Churchill on May 5.
"His work was absolutely incredible. He really impresses me in the morning. I
was super-excited about him for the Derby Trial and if we're able to have a
little more options in positioning, I think he'll be better around two turns
than the one-turn mile," she said of Bayern.
Napravnik has become a key player on the national racing stage in recent
years, having dominated the Fair Grounds jockey standings three straight years
and riding many Grade 1 winners, including Untapable in the Kentucky Oaks on May
2. Yet, the excitement of riding in major stakes such as the Preakness hasn't
"I don't think the big races will ever be old hat. Certainly, I don't think
the Triple Crown becomes old hat for anybody," she said. "With the experience of
riding in these races more and more often, I'm not overwhelmed by it and can be
more prepared each time and know more what to expect."
When she arrives at Pimlico next weekend for yet another big race, she'll
pause to reflect back on the day Dickie Small gave her a leg up on her first
"I didn't know if I'd be terrible or successful or somewhere in between, but
it's really been the ride of my life," Napravnik said.
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