This Saturday marks the Kentucky Derby’s 139th Run for the Roses, a time-old tradition that brings jockeys, owners and trainers together in pursuit of the coveted Garland of Roses. Of the twenty jockeys that will be entering the starting gate you’ll find 25-year old Anna Rose “Rosie” Napravnik, the only woman set to race this weekend. Considered the top female in a sport dominated by men, Rosie is looking to become the first woman jockey to win the race.

RosieNapravnikHeading to Churchill Downs with more than 1,500 career wins under her belt, Rosie is one of the best jockeys in the U.S., male or female. Last year she earned more than $12.4 million, ranking her eighth in North America, and breaking Hall of Fame rider Julie Krone’s record for female earnings of $9.2 million, set in 1992.

No woman has won the Derby and only one has won a single Triple Crown race – Julie Krone when she captured the Belmont Stakes in 1993. In the 139-year history of the Kentucky Derby, there have only been five (yes FIVE) other women who have run this race. This is Rosie’s second go around, she first ran in the Kentucky Derby in 2011, finishing 9th overall, the best finish for a female jockey to date.

In 1970, Diane Crump became the first female jockey to ride in the Derby. Following in her footsteps were Patricia Cooksey (1984), Andrea Seefeldt (1991), Julie Krone (1992) and Rosemary Homeister, Jr. (2003).

Growing up with a mother who trained horses in Bedminster, N.J., and a father who works as a farrier, tending to horses’ hooves, it’s no surprise that Rosie has ended up in the family business. As a little girl, she watched the horse racing documentary Jewels of the Triple Crown and was instantly hooked. She started racing ponies at age 7 and by 16 she was exercising horses at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, MD.

Rosie exercising Mylute

Today, women still make up only a small minority of the membership of the Lexington, Kentucky-based Jockeys’ Guild. In a recent interview with 60 Minutes, Rosie said that she regularly hears trash talk from her male counterparts such as “go home and have a baby” or “go home and stay in the kitchen”. She continues on to say that she will not be intimidated and nothing will stop her from pursuing her dream… “not to become the best female jockey, but just the best jockey”.

Rosie is scheduled to run Mylute, a three-year-old colt, on Saturday with odds currently standing at 15 to 1. We recommend not betting against her!

Photos via Ms. Napravnik’s official Facebook page

Kentucky Derby Trivia

  • The race draws more than 150,000 people
  • The horses run 1.25 miles in just about 2 minutes
  • Mint Julep (bourbon, mint, sugar syrup) is the signature drink of the race and is served over crushed ice in a souvenir glass
  • In 1904, the red rose became the official flower of the Kentucky Derby
  • The winner’s Garland of Roses is made up of over 400 roses
  • 13 of the 15 riders in the first Kentucky Derby were African-American and won 15 of the Derby’s first 28 runnings; an African-American jockey hasn’t won since 1902
  • Only 11 horses have swept the Triple Crown; none since 1978
  • Thirty-nine fillies have started in the Kentucky Derby with only three winning