It’s monumental when a 3-year-old filly challenges the colts and geldings in a Grade 1 mile-and-a-half classic known for crowning legends.
It’s colossal when that filly, whose trainer championed the last filly to win the race, is matched up with one of the top riders in the country.
Jockey Rosie Napravnik will become the first woman to ride in all three Triple Crown races in the same year Saturday when she guides Unlimited Budget, trained by Todd Pletcher, in the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park.
Napravnik was aboard the Tom Amoss-trained Mylute in the Kentucky Derby (fifth) and Preakness Stakes (third). When it was determined Mylute would be given a break and skip the Belmont, it appeared Napravnik had found another mount in Bob Baffert’s Code West.
Baffert elected not to enter Code West, and the wheels were quickly in motion to get Napravnik another opportunity. Enter Pletcher and his strong, strapping bay filly whose only blemish in a five-race career is a third-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks.
It was Pletcher who defied the odds – and dashed the doubters – in 2007 when his imposing filly with the big white blaze, Rags to Riches, edged the mighty Curlin in one of the most memorable editions of the Belmont Stakes. Before her historic victory, the last filly to win the race was Tanya in 1905.
Pletcher cautions about comparisons between the agile Unlimited Budget, a daughter of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, and marathon runner Rags to Riches.
“I'm a little bit concerned about the bottom side of her pedigree,” he said. “She's a daughter of Street Sense and that certainly is encouraging; however, the bottom side of her pedigree maybe is not quite as deep in stamina as Rags to Riches’ was.”
Napravnik is familiar with the filly. They teamed up to win the Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds in February. Napravnik indicated she doesn’t foresee any problems with Unlimited Budget being intimidated by her foes.
“She looks more like a colt,” she said.
While rooting – and betting – interests will be widely divided among the field of 14, one thing is certain: a win by Napravnik and Unlimited Budget would be another landmark moment in what has been an unforgettable Triple Crown series.