Napravnik, 24, won two of the four Challenge races and claimed the $10,000 top prize with a total of 34 points, 16 more than runner-up and event newcomer Tammy Piermarini. Rosemary Homeister and Maryland-based Forest Boyce tied for third with 12 points apiece.
“I haven’t had much luck in these challenges, but I guess it all changed today,” said Napravnik, who leads all female riders in the United States with 93 wins and $4.6 million in purses in 2012. “We had a great run. I had a couple of price horses that came in and ran well, so it’s great. I’m really glad to come back on my home turf and represent a little bit.”
Held in conjunction with the Lady Legends for the Cure III, a pari-mutuel race featuring eight retired female riders, the Challenge was part of The People’s Pink Party, a joint effort between Pimlico and Susan G. Komen, the world’s largest breast cancer organization, to help raise money and awareness in the fight against the disease.
Twelve points were awarded for finishing first among Challenge participants, six for second, four for third and three for fourth in the second, third, fifth and seventh races. Riders whose mounts were scratched were represented by the post-time race favorite.
Rounding out the finishers were defending champion Emma-Jayne Wilson, who was fifth with 11 points; newcomer Greta Kuntzweiler (10 points) and Vicky Baze (three).
Fourth in the 2011 Challenge, Napravnik kicked off the competition with a one-length victory on Silver Tie Affair ($9.40) in the second race. She also won the fifth with Share Out, a 22-to-1 long shot trained by Todd Wyatt that paid $46.60.
“He ran a great race,” Napravnik said. “The way he moved forward on the turf, even though he didn’t run a huge number, I thought with the time off he could move forward even more, so I had confidence. I know Todd Wyatt from a while back, so I had confidence in him, too. The horse ran a great race.”
Napravnik was also the first Challenge participant to cross the wire in the third race, but earned six second-place points after Piermarini’s mount, My Lucky Shoes, was scratched. Represented by the post-time favorite, Piermarini was awarded the win when Smoldering Beauty, sent off at even-money in the field of 10, won the race.
Heading into the final Challenge race, Napravnik held a 30-18 lead over Piermarini. She clinched the title by being the third Challenge participant across the line in the seventh, aboard Great Motion, good for four points, and Piermarini finished off the board.
“It’s nice to come out here, just run good, get around here good and see the nice, big crowd,” Piermarini said. A 45-year-old mother of three based at Suffolk Downs in Boston, Piermarini is one of five female riders with 2,000 career wins.
“I came back to Maryland back in ’87 lasted a little while, and then I went back home. Everybody has been very nice and accommodating, and it’s been a great experience. This is probably one of the best challenges I’ve been to so far, and I’ve been to a lot of girls’ challenges. They are very warm and welcoming, and the girls have been great.”
Napravnik won her first race aboard Ringofdiamonds on June 9, 2005 at Pimlico. Earlier this month, she became the first woman to win both the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs and the Grade 2 Peter Pan at Belmont Park, and is the first female to win riding titles at Fair Grounds and Delaware Park.
“I just rode the races like any other race. This is the elite group so it feels great to win the challenge,” Napravnik said. “I enjoy riding in Maryland altogether. I love coming here, because everybody’s friends of mine and they all root for me. To win a challenge here is great.”
Piermarini earned $7,000 for finishing second, followed by Boyce ($5,000), Homeister ($5,000), Wilson ($2,000), Kuntzweiler ($1,000) and Baze ($1,000).
The Challenge brought together seven riders who have won a combined 9,750 races and $175,030,658 in purses in the United States and Canada. Homeister (2,497), Piermarini (2,105) and Baze (2,092) are three of only five women to top 2,000 career wins.
Expanded to eight riders this year, the Challenge was without Abby Fuller, who was forced to drop out following the death of her father, owner-breeder Peter Fuller, on May 14.