By Kelley Carlson
One of racing’s “Legends” is coming out of retirement — for a day.
Former jockey Julie Krone, the first female inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame, plans to ride in the second Leger Legends Race on Sept. 7 at Doncaster Racecourse in England. The event supports the Injured Jockeys’ Fund, which provides medical, financial and pastoral care to riders whose injuries have forced some of them to end their competitive riding careers.
Krone, like most jockeys, suffered injuries during her stellar career, but luckily managed to recover from them. She is the only female rider to win a Triple Crown race, the Belmont Stakes in 1993 aboard Colonial Affair; and a Breeders’ Cup event, the Juvenile Fillies on Halfbridled in 2003. She also won numerous riding titles: at Belmont Park, Atlantic City Race Course, Monmouth Park, The Meadowlands and Gulfstream Park. At Del Mar, Krone rode the undefeated Argentinian champion Candy Ride to victory in the 2003 Pacific Classic, setting a track record.
The Carlsbad resident hung up her racing tack in 2004, although she did compete in a special pari-mutuel wagering event several years ago against fellow retired Hall of Fame jockeys at Santa Anita Park.
The 48-year-old Krone said the reason she stopped race riding in the first place was because it was wearing on her mentally, not so much physically.
“I’m naturally 100 pounds,” she said. “I never put on weight. I’m like a little hummingbird.”
But she “didn’t like the crashing.”
“I don’t like seeing the horses get hurt,” she said. “Anything can happen ... you can do everything right, but there’s an element of chaos.”
She’s attempting to put her feelings aside for charity, though.
To prepare for the Legends race, held during the opening day of the St. Leger Festival, Krone is galloping horses in the mornings for trainer Richard Mandella at Del Mar.
“Mandella is one of the most amazing life coaches, from people to horses,” she said. “(He helps me) feel good about racing and myself.”
Krone has also turned to karate, specifically Tang Soo Do, a traditional Korean martial art that literally means “China Hand Way.”
“It’s empowering — breaking stuff, punching things,” she said with a laugh.
She finds herself engulfed in the concentration of trying to do the moves correctly.
“It’s helped a lot with my balance and training,” Krone said. “It’s made me tougher and more mentally fit... Between Richard and the karate stuff, I think I’ll make the race. I’ll be a better person when the summer is over. I’ll be stronger and more capable of believing in my new self.”
Despite the mental aspect of being a jockey, Krone indicated that she absolutely misses race riding. On a scale of 1 to 10, she rated it a 10.
“I was loving everything else about it,” she said. “I don’t diet. Riding is one of the easiest things in the world (for me). It has beautiful, exciting (action). It keeps me strong and fit, and I make money — what wouldn’t I love?”
Krone, who had been a jockey for about 25 years, also got along well with each one of the horses she rode.
“I’m a chameleon,” she said. “The ability to adjust is one of the finest talents to have as an athlete.”
However, Krone is now exploring other avenues in the racing world. She said she has been dabbling with the idea of becoming a jockey agent, hanging out with Brian Beach, who books mounts for Chantal Sutherland.
“I just ask him stuff and try to learn a few things,” Krone said. “I would have to have a very special jockey. I know who I want, but they don’t know it yet!”
Krone is keeping busy in other ways, as well. She is working on a book project, based on her beloved thoroughbred Peter Rabbit’s perspective of her and her late mother, Judi. She is also the proud mother of Lorelei, her 5-year-old daughter with husband Jay Hovdey, a Daily Racing Form columnist. And Krone has been approached by recruiters from the reality TV show “Survivor,” although she has not accepted the challenge at this time.
While Krone is on the racetrack in the mornings, preparing for the “Legends” event, she is also occasionally in the stands in the afternoons. As a fan, her fondest memory at Del Mar is the “Mule Duel” between Black Ruby and Taz in 2002, in which Black Ruby scored a two-length victory.
As a rider, Krone’s favorite moment at the seaside oval was when trainer Ron McAnally put her on Candy Ride for the Pacific Classic. The mount had originally been assigned to Gary Stevens, but he had been injured in a freak accident during the finish of the Arlington Million that season.
“He (McAnally) was watching his horses train (from a platform over the track), and I was standing underneath, waiting,” she said. “The moment he said, ‘Yeah, you’re on, you’re going to ride,’ I felt like Lawrence of Arabia. It felt like the whole thing was already complete. It was the anticipation of waiting.”