Nationally renowned jockey Rosie Napravnik shares Michele Rodriguez’s desire for finding new jobs and homes for off-the-track thoroughbreds.
Napravnik is on the board of Old Friends, a Kentucky-based retirement facility for retired thoroughbreds. And when time allows, she speaks publicly for the cause of repurposing retired racehorses.
Napravnik — who retired from racing in October after becoming pregnant, with the baby expected to arrive in June — recently was named to the board of the Retired Racehorse Project, which helps find new homes and careers for former racehorses.
On a winter morning at the Fair Grounds, where she assists her husband, trainer Joe Sharp, in the care of their racing stable’s horses, Napravnik talked about one particular thoroughbred whose career she had followed ever since winning two races on him during his years of running primarily in claiming races across the country, from 2003-08.
The horse campaigned under the name Old Ironsides, whose sire was multiple-graded stakes winner Rubiano. Napravnik took a special liking to the gelding, so “I kept track of him through the years,” she said. “Even when he was claimed a few times and moved out of state, I stayed in touch with the owners. That’s how I got him in 2008 when he retired (at age 7).”
From the day she acquired him, “Sugar” became part of Napravnik’s family. She taught him to jump, which led to competitions in one-day eventing and hunter/jumper classes, as well as romps in the foxhunting field. Now 14, Sugar has embraced his current role as a pony horse for Sharp’s stable, Napravnik said.
Sugar isn’t the only off-the-track thoroughbred that Napravnik has helped find a new career.
“There have been a few I’ve handpicked myself that I’d ridden in races,” she said.
Napravnik also has sent former racehorses to her mother, Cindy Faherty Napravnik, who teaches riding on the East Coast.
“It really makes me feel good when I hear that these horses have gone on to do something awesome and that they love their new jobs,” Napravnik said. “I’m really passionate about this, because I know these horses’ potential.”