History was made before a crowd of 112,552 when Rosie Napravnik won the Kentucky Oaks with Believe You Can and became the first woman to ever win the $1,000,000 Grade 1 race. Trainer Larry Jones and owner Brereton Jones, who withdrew Mark Valeski from the Kentucky Derby, teamed to win the Kentucky Oaks.
Believe You Can came into the Oaks off a win in the Fair Grounds Oaks. With five wins in eight lifetime starts, this homebred filly was a bargain at post-time odds of 13-1. Sitting just behind the leader, Broadway’s Alibi, Believe You Can began to move on the leader as the field turned for home. The two matched eyes and dueled to the finish before Believe You Can slowly pulled away winning by a margin of ¾ lengths.
Not only was Napravnik the first woman to win the Kentucky Oaks, the win was her first grade 1 victory.
“I cried a little, but I don’t think I’m done crying yet,” said Napravnik. “Last year was kind of a tease [finishing a fast-closing second on St. John’s River], I was so close, but not there, and this year I was determined to be the one in the winner’s circle and I had the right horse to do it.”
Believe You Can, a daughter of Proud Citizen, gave Larry Jones and Brereton Jones their second Kentucky Oaks victory. The Jones’ paired to win the 2008 edition with another daughter of Proud Citizen, Proud Spell.
Broadway's Alibi, third choice among the bettors, led throughout the first mile, but was unable to hold off Believe You Can.
"I think she handled the track okay, but the first time over a track, she paddles a lot," said jockey John Velazquez who was aboard Broadway's Alibi. "She lost momentum. The ground broke away from her. I don't think the distance hurt her, I think the track didn't help."
Grace Hall, the post-time favorite, was shuffled between horses in mid-pack and was four-wide turning for home. She closed strongly, but couldn't reach the leaders in time and finished third.
"She had a great trip," said trainer of Grace Hall, Tony Dutrow. "Everything went the way we wanted it to. We just were unable to catch the first two."
Jockey Javier Castellano returned to ride Grace Hall after taking a spill on Star Channel in the American Turf Stakes a race earlier. Although he was carried from the turf track on a stretcher, Castellano was smiling and showing a thumbs up.
"The track was playing for speed today," said Castellano. "Unfortunately, it didn't work out for me. They didn't come back to me."
Believe You Can paid $29.60, $11.80, and $6.40. Broadway's Alibi returned $6.00 and $4.20 and completed the $2 exacta for $173. Grace Hall paid $3.20 and completed the $2 trifecta for $587.20. Summer Applause completed the $2 superfecta for $3,745.40. The final time for the 1 1/8 mile race over the fast track was 1:49.50.
Photo: Hodges Photography/Lynn Roberts