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At the races

Napravnik keeps a rosy outlook about Eclipse nomination

Napravnik keeps a rosy outlook about Eclipse nomination

January 21, 2007|by LARRY YANOS

Maryland-based rider Rosie Napravnik is an Eclipse Award nominee for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey in 2006 and the 18-year-old jockey could join some select company.

Nine jockeys from the Free State have won the award for top bug rider: Chris McCarron (1974), Ronnie Franklin (1978), Alberto Delgado (1982), Allen Stacy (1986), Kent Desormeaux (1987), Mike Luzzi (1989), Mark Johnston (1990), Jeremy Rose (2001) and Ryan Fogelsonger (2002).

"It's an honor to be nominated," Napravnik said from Laurel Park Friday. "I had a good year in 2006 and I'll be working hard to do well again this year."

Despite some impressive 2006 statistics, most consider the teenager a longshot to win the prestigious award.

The competition includes rookie rider Julien Leparoux - who led the nation in victories (403) while his mounts earned $12.5 million - and California-based Martin Garcia - 260 wins for $6.1 million.

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Napravnik - who heads west for Monday's award ceremonies in Beverly Hills, Calif., following today's Laurel Park racing card - finished the 2006 season with 300 victories for $6.4 million and captured the riding titles at all four meets in the state with 80 multiple win afternoons at Laurel Park and Pimlico.

"It will be so exciting to be there with the top people in the industry," Napravnik said. "To be invited is incredible."

Making the Grade

The winners of the three Grade I races at Pimlico and Laurel Park in 2006 - Invasor (Pimlico Special), Bernardini (Preakness) and Thor's Echo (De Francis Dash) - are considered favorites to take home Eclipse Awards in the older male, 3-year-old male and sprinter categories.

"It would be quite a feather in Maryland racing's cap to have the winners of our three Grade I's be the champions of their respective divisions," said Lou Raffetto, president and COO of the Maryland Jockey Club.

High five

Trainer Murray Rojas saddled five winners from eight starters on Wednesday night's nine-race program at Penn National.

She is the first trainer to have five winners on a single card at the track this decade.

Sand Ballade ($19.20) lasted by a nose for a wire-to-wire win under 2006 riding champion Emilio Flores in the second race. Rojas saddled two starters in the third race, with So Sahm ($8.20) winning by four lengths under apprentice Erika Strunk.

Straight From Maui, the early leader under Flores, stumbled in the stretch. Her jockey suffered a back injury that is expected to have him sidelined for several weeks.

Wee Man finished seventh in the fourth race, and Mr. Major lost by a neck at odds of 10-1 in the sixth race.

The rest of the card belonged to Rojas and jockey Arnold Unsihuay. The pair won with Justa Little Dream ($6.40), Foggy Morning ($4.40) and Caribbean Prince ($14.40) in the seventh, eighth and ninth races.

Pony tales

TVG, America's horse racing network, will air live coverage of the 36th annual Eclipse Awards at 8 p.m. Monday.

Jerry O'Connell, who stars in the NBC series "Crossing Jordan," will serve as emcee of the program for the third straight year.

Virtually all of TVG's on-air personalities will take part, including retired Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, himself a past Eclipse Award winner.

Representatives from the NTRA, the National Turf Writers Association and Daily Racing Form vote on the Eclipse Awards.

Eclipse Awards are presented in 16 equine and human categories, including: Horse of the Year, 2-year-old colt, 2-year-old filly, 3-year-old colt, 3-year-old filly, older male horse, older female horse, male turf horse, female turf horse, sprinter, steeplechase, owner, breeder, jockey, apprentice jockey and trainer.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Equibase Company LLC have released the year-end Thoroughbred Racing Economic Indicators for pari-mutuel wagering on U.S. thoroughbred racing in 2006, as well as for U.S. purses and race days, with prior-year comparisons.

Despite slightly fewer race days in 2006 compared to 2005, total wagering on U.S. racing increased 1.51 percent in 2006 and U.S. purses increased 3.3 percent over 2005.

Results in 2006 were buoyed by a strong December in which wagering increased nearly 6 percent over 2005, thanks in part to strong gains at Hollywood Park and the return of racing to the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

Larry Yanos is sports editor of The Daily Mail. He covers horse racing for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2332, or by e-mail at larryy@herald-mail.com

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