Six of the world's top female riders are set to square off in the inaugural $30,000 Pimlico Female Jockey Challenge on Black-Eyed Susan Day, Friday, May 20, at Pimlico Race Course.
The challenge is part of The People's Pink Party, a joint effort between Pimlico and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world's largest breast cancer organization, to help raise money and awareness in the fight against the disease.
Headlining the challenge participants is 23-year-old Rosie Napravnik, who this year became just the sixth female to ride in the Kentucky Derby and had the best finish, crossing the wire ninth aboard Pants on Fire.
She will be joined in the lineup by Vicky Baze, Forest Boyce, Chantal Sutherland, Hayley Turner and Emma-Jayne Wilson.
“I've had just a great year so far,” Napravnik said. “I've been riding some very quality horses and coming off riding in the Derby is just a high that you can't find anywhere else. I think the challenge is very unique because it's a very select group of elite female riders. It will be very interesting and I think it's going to be very exciting.”
Riders will earn points for finishing first (12 points), second (6), third (4) and fourth (3) in four designated races on Friday: the second, fourth, sixth and eighth. The jockey with the most points at the end of the competition will be crowned champion and take home top prize of $10,000. Other prize money is $7,000 for second, $6,000 for third, $4,000 for fourth, $2,000 for fifth and $1,000 for sixth.
Also on the 13-race card is the Lady Legends for the Cure Race II, a pari-mutuel race showcasing eight retired champion female riders in an encore performance
from last year.
Napravnik was the only female to take part in last year's Pimlico Jockey Challenge, won by Javier Castellano over defending champion Kent Desormeaux. She finished sixth with a total of three points.
“I've been in a few jockey challenges and I've never done very well,” Napravnik said. “I'm hoping to have a little more luck this year. It would be great to win the Challenge and, being at Pimlico, which is where I started, I guess it would be a little sentimental.”
Napravnik rode her first career winner, Ringofdiamonds, at Pimlico on June 9, 2005. The following year she was runner-up to Julien Leparoux in Eclipse Award voting for top apprentice, finishing as Maryland's leading rider with 259 victories.
The first female to win a riding title at Delaware Park, in 2010, Napravnik this year became the first to lead the standings at Fair Grounds Race Track, as well as the first to win the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, with Pants on Fire.
Through May 17, she ranked eighth in the country with $3,741,856 in purses and ninth with 94 wins from 464 mounts. For her career, Napravnik has won 1,123 races and $29.5 million in purse earnings.
Napravnik is named on 7-to-2 morning-line favorite Frocks Valley Girl in Friday's sixth race for trainer Dale Capuano.
“Put it this way; if I was going to be competitive already, I'm definitely going to be competitive on my home turf,” she said. “I think we're all in the same boat. We're all kind of excited to ride with the elite group together.”
In 2008, the 28-year-old Turner became the first female jockey in England to ride 100 winners in a calendar year, also finishing as one of only five riders to have more than 900 mounts.
England's champion apprentice in 2005, she is her country's all-time leading female rider with 480 career wins and nearly $6 million in purse earnings. This year, she had 43 wins in 271 mounts through May 16.
“I'm really excited. I can't wait,” Turner said. “We are obviously all competitive; otherwise, we wouldn't be good at our jobs. I think that's what makes this so good. We want to win, and it's the same with every race every day. You're competitive out on the track, but it's nice to have a bit of fun and a laugh with everybody, as well.”
Turner will have a quick turnaround for the challenge. She and her agent are scheduled to arrive in Baltimore on Thursday night and fly back to England just hours after Friday's card concludes.
“We're quite used to having a hectic schedule over here, because we're not based at one track,” she said. “We drive around every day, from track to track or up and down the countryside. It's just part of our daily routine. We're quite used to it.”
The 46-year-old Baze earned her 2,000th career victory on March 2 at Turfway Park, ranking fourth among female riders in career wins. She won more than 200 races in 1986 and 1993 before retiring in 2001. She returned as a full-time rider in 2009 and won 152 races last year.
Sutherland, 35, ranked 13th in North America with $8.8 million in earnings in 2010. She was the regular rider of 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird as a 2-year-old in Canada and had 863 wins and $41.7 million in career purses through May 16. Based in California, Sutherland has also worked as a model and was one of the stars of the Animal Planet reality show “Jockeys.”
In 2007, Wilson, 30, became the first female rider to win the Queen's Plate, Canada's oldest thoroughbred horse race and the first leg in its Triple Crown series, aboard Mike Fox. In just six years as a jockey, she has won 807 races and more than $38 million in purses.
Boyce, 26, was the leading rider in Maryland in 2010 as an apprentice, winning 106 races at Laurel Park and Pimlico and riding titles at Laurel's summer and fall meets. She won 129 races and nearly $2.1 million in purses last year and finished second in Eclipse Award voting as top apprentice.
The challenge and Lady Legends participants will take part in an autograph session from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. on the first floor grandstand trackside and will be featured on a free souvenir poster handed out to the first 3,500 fans.
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