OCEANPORT, N.J. — At the moment she won the last race of her career on Halloween, 2014 at Santa Anita, Rosie Napravnik was one of the better jockeys in America and among the best female jockeys who ever lived. After she guided Untapable into the winner’s circle following a win in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and posed for pictures, she announced she was pregnant and going to retire as a jockey.
Two children later, Napravnik was in the winner’s circle at Monmouth Park early Sunday evening with her husband Joe Sharp and the horse she calls as good as any she’s ever been on.
Rosie exercises Girvin in the mornings now and leaves the race riding to other jockeys. Robby Albarado, who won his 5,000th race in January, rode Girvin for the first time in the $1 million Haskell, had the colt dead last in the seven-horse field midway through the race, but made up a few lengths in the final 200 yards and got there just in time, beating McCraken by a nose, giving Sharp his first Grade I win and his wife as big a thrill as it would have been if she were riding.
“Just as (exciting),’’ Napravnik said. “(Sharp’s) made me a big part of this horse.’’
It was as exciting for the winning jockey.
“I’ve been disappointed in this Haskell a couple times, got nailed at the wire by Point Given once,’’ Albarado said. “Curlin came here at 3-5 and got beat.’’
On paper, the Haskell was a two-horse race between unbeaten Timeline and the accomplished Irish War Cry. Those two were there early, but not late as 9-1 Girvin, who dominated the New Orleans route to the Kentucky Derby this year before finishing 13th at Churchill Downs, made the last move.
Girvin paid $20.40 to win and ran the mile and an eighth in 1:48.35. After Derby winner Always Dreaming and Preakness winner Cloud Computing ran third and fifth in Saturday’s Jim Dandy at Saratoga, the 3-year-old division has no clear leader which makes Girvin, with his three graded stakes win this year, a player.
“At this point, Girvin has gone above and beyond what he ever needed to do’’ Sharp said. “Anything now is just frosting.’’
The colt is named for owner Brad Grady’s hometown in West Texas, if you can call a place with a population of 11 a town.
“My family’s ranch is in Girvin,’’ Grady said.
He went to school 11 miles from the ranch. His dad was also in the oil and gas business.
“If you weren’t in either of those industries, there’s not much there,’’ Grady said.
Girvin’s only bad race was in the Derby where he was compromised by a serious hoof problem in the weeks leading up to the race. He’s good now, so good his career earnings are now $1.54 million, not bad for a horse Grady would not bid more than $120,000 for at a 2015 sale before coming back a month later at a second sale and going for the additional $10,000 as the horse went for $130,000.
Girvin is stabled at Saratoga so the Aug. 26 Travers has to be on the agenda. And the Sept. 23 Pennsylvania Derby is certainly a possibility.
It was an upset that Girvin won, a bigger upset that trainer Chad Brown who ran Practical Joke and Timeline, third and fifth respectively in the Haskell, did not win. Brown had entered seven races Sunday, three at Saratoga, three at Monmouth and one at Woodbine. And won them all _until the Haskell. In the end, this Haskell was about Girvin, a nice horse getting better as we head into August.