Looking forward to gaining clearance from her doctor April 18 to return to riding, jockey Anna "Rosie" Napravnik said she has major changes planned for when she gets back in the saddle.
The Eclipse Award runner-up for apprentice jockey last season, Napravnik said she has come upon an opportunity too good to pass up and will move her riding base from Maryland to Delaware Park. As part of that arrangement, she will also begin working with agent Steve Rushing, recognized as the top jockey agent in the Mid-Atlantic.
"It may be a step to bigger things in the long run," she said yesterday. "But it's not the objective right now. It's simply that I have the opportunity to work with a very good agent who works in Delaware. It will be a chance to work in a stronger jockey colony, with a little bit better horses and better outfits. And it will all be a bigger challenge."
Napravnik has been sidelined since Jan. 26, when she took a spill at Laurel Park and suffered three compression fractures in the middle of her back. At that time, she was told it would take up to 12 weeks of rest before she could return to riding.
"My back has been feeling fine since the first couple of weeks," said Napravnik, 19. "I really haven't had any pain in my back. The doctor said it takes 12 weeks to heal, and I go back to him on April 18. Hopefully, I can get on horses on the 19th and be back two weeks later."
Trainer Dickie Small, for whom Napravnik won her first race and for whom she worked as an exercise rider shortly after coming to Maryland, said when Napravnik is given clearance to ride, she will return to exercising his horses in the mornings at Pimlico to get some of her conditioning back.
"You can't not get on a horse for three months and then ride in a race," Small said. "She'll work on getting her balance back. You know, it's harder for women than men to come back from injury layoffs. Men, for some reason, stay fit longer and get fit quicker. Most women jockeys never know what it's like to be hard fit, because most of them don't ride six or seven horses a day. But Rosie did, and she knows what it feels like."
Napravnik said she has not lost 100 percent of her conditioning, "but compared to where I need to be, it's a tremendous loss." Her plan is to work with Small's horses "for a week or so," while working out at a gym, rowing and running at home and then go to Delaware Park, where she will continue to exercise horses in the morning until she feels ready to return to racing.
Last year, Napravnik won 259 races at Laurel Park and Pimlico, leading riders during all four meets.
Note -- Etude, winner of the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Park March 24 and trained by Small at Pimlico, is one of 10 horses made eligible for the Triple Crown series through the payment of $6,000 before the secondary deadline last Saturday. They join 450 horses originally nominated Jan. 20. "I'm just keeping my options open," Small said. "If he does well in the Tesio [Stakes on April 21], he could go to the Preakness, but it also depends on what happens in Kentucky. Sometimes, a lot of those horses don't come to run in the Preakness."