BALTIMORE, 05-13-13---Both pride and purses will be on the line for eight male and female riders in the inaugural $34,000 Xpressbet Jockey Challenge on Friday at Pimlico Race Course.
Past winners Javier Castellano, Rosie Napravnik and Emma-Jayne Wilson join locally based riders Kristina McManigell and Forest Boyce and are among the participants in Pimlico’s first riding competition to combine some of the country’s top male and female jockeys in head-to-head competition.
In the challenge format, riders will earn points for finishing first (12 points), second (6), third (4) and fourth (3) in four designated races: the second, third, fifth and seventh. The jockey with the most points at the end of the competition will be crowned champion and take home top prize of $12,000. Other prize money is $8,000 for second, $6,000 for third, $4,000 for fourth and $1,000 for fifth through eighth.
The ‘Battle of the Sexes’ winner is determined by which team, male or female, has the higher point total overall for all riders in the four-race challenge.
This is the fifth year for a jockey challenge at Pimlico on the Preakness eve card. Kent Desormeaux beat three others, including Castellano, to win in 2009, but Castellano edged Desormeaux in an eight-rider group for the 2010 title.
Switched to an all-female format in 2011, the challenge was won in 2011 by Wilson, who donated her $10,000 winner’s share to the Komen foundation, and in 2012 by local favorite Napravnik.
The Xpressbet Jockey Challenge brings together a group that has won more than 23,000 career races and over $1 billion in purse earnings, including 14 Triple Crown races, five Eclipse Awards and two Sovereign Awards for riding success.
“I’m so excited, so excited, to ride with people I’ve always looked up to,” said McManigell, 24. “Now, I’m riding with them. It’s going to be a great experience. I’m very honored.”
A graduate of Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron’s North American Racing Academy in Lexington, Ky., McManigell is in her first year riding full-time in Maryland. She has eight wins from 76 mounts at the current Pimlico meet, which began April 4 and runs through June 8.
Her career got into full swing in 2010, winning her first career race on Jan. 7 at Tampa Bay Downs, where she was the leading apprentice rider, and finishing the year with 51 victories. McManigell topped $1 million in purses earned in both 2011 and 2012, and is more than halfway to reaching that mark again in 2013.
An Illinois native, she has also ridden at Churchill Downs, Turfway Park, Parx Racing and Ellis Park, which is close to where she was raised in Kentucky. In addition, she spent a summer internship exercising horses for trainer Todd Pletcher at Saratoga Race Course.
“My family had nothing to do in the horse racing business,” she said. “In high school, I worked for a gentleman who had racehorses, and I’d clean stalls. He would run horses at Ellis Park, which is near where I grew up. He always put the thought into my head that I should be a jockey, and I just kind of got into it. I shipped in a couple times for a few trainers from Philly last year, and I was always very impressed with the attitude of the people around here, and just how everyone welcomed me in. The racing in Maryland is great.”
McManigell will have special inspiration on Friday. Her mother, Jennifer, was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and will be in attendance to watch her daughter compete.
“She is doing really well now,” she said. “The prognosis is good and the last check of everything is good, so thank God for that. She hasn’t seen me ride in years live, so just to have her here is great, but to have her here on that day and with what she’s been through this last year, it definitely means a lot.”
McManigell admits being a bit awed by her competition, which includes many of her professional role models.
“The lineup – Gary Stevens, Edgar Prado – these are people I idolized,” she said. “I remember reading Gary Stevens’ book when I was like 13 years old. It’s pretty cool. If nothing else, I’m going to learn a lot just by riding with them. I’m very excited.”
Napravnik, 25, who made her mark on the Maryland circuit, ranks second overall with 123 wins and fifth with $5,186,563 in purses in 2013, both tops among female riders. Her fifth-place finish on Mylute was the best for any woman rider in the Kentucky Derby, and on Saturday she will become only the third female to compete in the Preakness, following Patti Cooksey and Andrea Seefeldt.
Wilson, 32, captured the 2005 Eclipse award and Canada’s Sovereign Award in 2005 and 2006 as champion apprentice jockey, and became the first female to win the Queen’s Plate, her country’s version of the Kentucky Derby, in 2007.
Boyce, 28, was sixth in Maryland’s jockey standings with 58 wins last year, after being the state’s leading rider as an apprentice in 2010, finishing second in Eclipse Award balloting that year as top apprentice.
Castellano, 35, has won the Travers Stakes three times and was the regular rider for champions Bernardini and Hall of Famer Ghostzapper. This year, he is second overall with more than $7.3 million in purses earned and fourth with 121 victories.
Prado, 45, rose to prominence winning 24 riding titles in Maryland in the 1990s. He has one Kentucky Derby and two Belmont Stakes victories to his credit, has won 6,636 races and nearly $245 million in purses in a career than earned him the 2006 Eclipse Award as top rider and a spot in racing’s Hall of Fame.
Stevens, 50, has won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness three times, and the Belmont Stakes twice in a Hall of Fame career that includes the 1998 Eclipse Award as top rider, 4,906 wins and more than $222 million in purse earnings.
Velazquez, 41, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012. He has won the Kentucky Derby once and Belmont Stakes twice, a pair of Eclipse Awards as champion jockey, is closing in on 5,000 lifetime wins and has earned more than $285 million in purses.
Participants from both the challenge and the Lady Legends race will take part in an autograph session on the first floor grandstand starting at 10 a.m.