Believe You Can, Napravnik Win Kentucky Oaks
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Rosie Napravnik became the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Oaks, keeping Believe You Can near the front from the start and pulling away from Broadway's Alibi in the $1 million race at Churchill Downs on Friday.
Napravnik was close in the race last year, finishing second behind Plum Pretty with St. John's River. In this one, she took the filly named for the pep talks former Kentucky Gov. Brereton C. Jones' father used to give to the front in the 1 1/8-mile race.
The victory also gave trainer Larry Jones his first Oaks victory since 2008 with Proud Spell. That celebration was cut short when his other filly, Eight Belles, broke down after a second-place finish the Kentucky Derby and was euthanized.
"I'm not going to bring up a lot of things in the past," Jones said. "We celebrated for 24 hours. At that point, we kind of forgot we had won the Oaks. We're going to enjoy this one."
Napravnik lost her Kentucky Derby mount this weekend when the Joneses decided not to run Mark Valeski, but this was a good consolation prize.
"It's unbelievable. I can't even tell you what I'm feeling right now," Napravnik said. "This is what it feels like when your dreams come true."
The win gave Jones another victory in the filly version of the Kentucky Derby. Believe You Can followed a similar path that Proud Spell did by winning the Fair Ground Oaks in her final prep race.
"This filly gave us that `wow' factor," trainer Larry Jones said. "You need that wow when you're coming in here because you're dealing with tough horses."
Sent off at 13-1 odds, Believe You Can paid $29.60, $11.80 and $6.40. Broadway's Alibi returned $6 and $4.20, and favorite Grace Hall paid $3.20 to show.
Jones retired in the aftermath of Eight Belles' death and dealt with memory loss when it was discovered he had high levels of aluminum in his system. But he couldn't stay away from long and once he returned, Jones continued his superb development of fillies, most notably Havre de Grace, last year's Horse of the Year.
Broadway's Alibi had been looking for her fifth straight victory and was expected to push the pace, but Napravnik kept Believe You Can close around the first turn in front of a crowd of 112,552.
Broadway's Alibi, ridden by John Velazquez, led the 14-filly field until the turn to the finish when Napravnik caught the leader and edged away to win by three-quarters of a lengthy.
"I just had the horse underneath me. She's just an excellent filly," Napravnik said. "It's cool to look beside you and see Johnny fading away."
Napravnik also took her next scheduled mount in 12th race, and won that one, too, aboard Totally Tucker for the trainer who has so much confidence in her.