Rosie Napravnik – Woman Jockey Among the Firsts
by C.K. Thomas
Rosie Napravnik has ridden in all three thoroughbred, dirt-track races that make up the famous Triple Crown: The Kentucky Derby – Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky; The Preakness Stakes – Pimlico Racecourse, Baltimore, Maryland; and The Belmont Stakes – Belmont Park, Elmont, New York. She remains the only woman to have achieved this feat in a field where women make up only 10 percent of horse-racing jockeys.
Napravnik placed fifth in the 2013 Kentucky Derby and third in that year’s Preakness, the best finishes for any woman jockey in those two races to date. At 5 feet two inches and a riding weight of 113 pounds, Napravnik has heard her share of snide comments from male jockeys. She responds to such talk quickly, letting her peers know she’s a serious contender. Over the course of her career, the other jockeys have come to respect her riding skills.
When Napravnik retired from racing in 2014 to train horses with her husband Joe Sharp, her lifetime earnings total topped $71 million. She ranked fifth by earnings and sixth by number of wins that year and was the highest-ranked woman jockey in North America.
Napravnik drew inspiration from Julie Krone, the first woman to win the Belmont Stakes. The National Women’s Hall of Fame, the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, and the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame honor her among their members. Krone was the first woman inducted into The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
While there were several important firsts as female riders gained equality with men, it was (Diane) Crump who is recognized as the first woman to compete as a licensed jockey at a U.S. racetrack.
— Bob Ehalt, America’s Best Racing, May 2017
Crump paved the way for a legion of women in future years when, undaunted by the widespread hostility against her for tearing down the walls of a males-only bastion, she rode Bridle ’n Bit in a race at Hialeah Park on February 7, 1969.
“It always impacted me, being the first female jockey,” said the 68-year-old Crump during a recent interview with America’s Best Racing. “I have one little footprint in history that turned a corner not just for women’s rights, but equal rights. Maybe that opened it up for equal rights, and that’s important to me. Wherever you go now, women have the opportunity to ride and that’s awesome. It gave all of us a chance to do what was in our hearts and that to me was important.”
Photos from Wikipedia
C.K. Thomas lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Before retiring, she worked for Phoenix Newspapers while raising three children and later as communications editor for a large United Methodist Church. The Storm Women is her fourth novel and the third in the Arrowstar series about adventurous women of the desert Southwest. Follow her blog: We-Tired and Writing Blog.