Napravnik’s star rising high

NEW CUMBERLAND – Good jockeys tend to get good mounts. The top jockeys get to ride the elite of the thoroughbred breed. That’s why Rosie Napravnik will be aboard the 7-5 morning line favorite, Overanalyze, for Todd A. Pletcher in Saturday’s Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort.

At age 25, Napravnik is riding her way into the sport’s upper echelon. Her statistics for the year, through Wednesday, are as follows: 741 mounts, 174 wins, 229 placings and purse earnings of $8.15 million. Napravnik ranks fourth nationally among jockeys in victories and fifth nationally in earnings. Her win ratio for the season is 23.5 percent.

Napravnik has been profiled on NBC’s “Today Show” and CBS’s “60 Minutes.” She has been the subject of numerous feature articles in newspapers and magazines, many of which are circulated throughout the country.

Gaining celebrity within horse racing’s world provides advantages. Disadvantages, too. “You’ll be on a horse that should be a 3-1 third choice, and he’ll get bet down to a 9-5 favorite,” the late hall of famer Eddie Arcaro once explained. “And then when he runs like a 3-1 third choice, you get ‘booed’ all the way to the jockeys’ room.”

There weren’t many boos for Napravnik this past winter at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, where she dominated the jockey standings with 125 wins. It was her third consecutive rider title at Fair Grounds, a track that conducted its first meet in 1870.

This past spring, Napravnik finished third in the standings at Keeneland. And she finished second with 45 wins in the Churchill Downs standings, trailing only Shaun Bridgmohan.

Right now Napravnik is based at Saratoga, where she’s been competitive, although far from dominant. Napravnik is tied for sixth in the Saratoga standings, trailing the national leader Joel Rosario; Javier Castellano; the two-time Eclipse Award winner John Velasquez; Jose Lezcano; and Cornelio Velasquez.

A very strong argument can be made that the annual Saratoga meet is the best on these shores, and perhaps even on the entire planet. To be considered among the best, an athlete has to compete against the best, which is what Napravnik’s doing.

She’s from New Jersey originally, and has said she wanted to be a jockey since the age of 7, when she rode in her first pony race. In her young adulthood, almost all components of Napravnik’s life have become immersed in the sport.

Napravnik has married into a multi-generation racing family. Her husband, Joe Sharp, is an assistant to trainer Mike Maker (who has entered two horses on this year’s West Virginia Derby undercard). Napravnik’s father-in-law, Marc J. Sharp, is a longtime trainer, the son of a trainer and a former champion amateur rider.

Her career resume contains a trio of wins in events purses worth a million dollars or more. In 2011, Napravnik booted the 6-1 shot Pants On Fire to a photo-finish victory in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds.

In 2012, Napravnik won the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill with the 13-1 shot Believe You Can. And in November of last year, she was aboard the 6-5 favorite Shanghai Bobby for a photo-finish win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita.

Besides Overanalyze, Napravnik is scheduled to ride six other horses at Mountaineer on Saturday. Among them is Mordi’s Miracle in the $200,000 West Virginia Governor’s Stakes. The colt, also trained by Pletcher, finished third in the Grade 3 Excelsior Stakes at Aqueduct in March.

Napravnik has had one prior effort at Mountaineer – in November 2009, she finished fourth aboard Congressional Page for trainer Michael Trombetta in the Mountaineer Mile Handicap.

As a star, Napravnik was in the early stages of ascension back then. She’s far more than a blip on racing’s horizon now.

MOUNTAINEER NOTES: Should Overanalyze win on Saturday, he will receive the $150,000 bonus Mountaineer’s offering to any Grade 1 winner who also wins the West Virginia Derby. His Arkansas victory makes Overanalyze eligible for this. The bonus would swell the race’s purse to $900,000, and the overall distribution for the West Virginia Derby card to $1.8 million.