24-year-old is just the second female jockey to ride in the Belmont Stakes
POSTED: Friday, June 8, 2012 - 4:00pm
UPDATED: Friday, June 8, 2012 - 4:04pm
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Spectators at Belmont Park will see history even before the big race ends Saturday.
When the horses bolt from the starting gate, New Jersey native Rosie Napravnik will become only the second female jockey to compete in the last leg of racing's Triple Crown.
She will be riding the colt, Five Sixteen, with a purpose.
"Any female to this day is going to start out with a disadvantage: skepticism," said Napravnik. "You just have to prove yourself."
Jockey Julie Krone is the only other woman to ride in the Belmont Stakes.
Krone won the race in 1993.
Napravnik's career as a jockey began with her racing ponies at age 7.
A few years later, as a teenager, she hopped a train for her first visit to the Belmont Stakes and watched as War Emblem failed in his attempt to win the Triple Crown.
Now, she will see the Belmont from a far different perspective.
"It's such a huge dream, and not that I didn't think it was possible, but I just didn't know it would be happening to me so soon," said Napravnik.
Achieving that dream, however, wasn't always easy for a woman in a man's world.
"I've had many trainers and owners tell me, you know, I just don't ride a girl," Napravnik explained. "But later, I ended up riding for them and that really makes me feel good."
Napravnik finished ninth aboard Pants on Fire in the 2011 Kentucky Derby.
It was the best finish ever for a woman in that race.
Napravnik aslo won the first at Belmont Wednesday and hopes to return to the winner's circle Saturday, even if it means upending I'll Have Another's Triple Crown dreams.
"A race like this, the crowd starts to rise, it will be thrilling," she said.