Twenty-three year old Rosie Napravnik learned to ride horses before she could walk. This weekend, she will be the jockey on a horse called Pants On Fire, and possibly be the first woman to win the Kentucky Derby. According to CBS News, only five women have ever ridden the in the Kentucky Derby. Not one of them finished better than 11th place.
Plenty of little girls love horses. And Napravnik says: "Having been around horses my whole life, [it] creates that natural communication with a horse. I can't describe what I'm doing — I just do it." But horse racing, it seems, is not welcoming to women. In an interview with the AP, Napravnik revealed the rampant sexism.
"It still is a man's world," Napravnik said. "You still get that just about every day: 'I don't want to ride a girl. The owner doesn't want to ride a girl. You're not as strong, you're not as this, you're not as that.'"
In a segment which aired this morning on the Today show, Napravnik was described as a "sweet, petite redhead." She claimed that her fellow competitors treat her as an equal, but Pants On Fire's horse trainer, Kelly Breen, said of Napravnik: "She rides like a man." (What does that mean? That she doesn't suck?)
Pants On Fire has a good chance, but even if the horse doesn't win, Napravnik is happy for the opportunity: "However well we do, it's just going to be a thrill to be there." Napravnik's mom — who has purchased a hat for the occassion — will be cheering her daughter on at the race on Saturday, the day before Mother's Day. Napravnik says: "My mom, she is just one of the proudest mothers that you could ever imagine. I am so excited she's coming to the Derby. It's almost as much her dream as it is mine."