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Rosie Napravnik remembers her late mentor, Dickie Small

Jockey Rosie Napravnik smiles on her mount before

Jockey Rosie Napravnik smiles on her mount before the Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. (May 4, 2013) Credit: AP

BALTIMORE -- When Rosie Napravnik was a 16-year-old nobody, Dickie Small was in her corner. Now she's a star, and her mentor is gone.

Small, a Green Beret in Vietnam and a Maryland trainer for more than 40 years, died April 4 after a long illness. While in high school, Napravnik galloped horses for him and trainer Holly Robinson. Small was there in Pimlico's paddock on June 9, 2005, to give the nervous 17-year-old a leg up on her first career mount, Ringofdiamonds. Minutes later, they were in the winner's circle.

"There's a void at Pimlico," said Napravnik, who rides Bayern in Saturday's 139th Preakness Stakes. "When I do well in big races, he's one of the first people I think of. I know how proud of me he would be."

No woman has ridden or trained a Preakness winner, and it's the first time the field will include a female rider, trainer (Linda Rice) and a filly (Ria Antonia). Napravnik, a two-time Kentucky Oaks winner, is the third woman who's had a Preakness ride. She was third on Mylute in her debut last year.

She said a Preakness victory would be "just as special" as winning the Kentucky Derby. "I would feel like I was doing it for everybody who got me started in Maryland and gave me the opportunities that led to Fair Grounds, Kentucky and Saratoga. I didn't know if I'd be terrible or successful or somewhere in between, but it's really been the ride of my life."

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