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Krone Says End to Stellar Career Is Drawing Near

Horse racing: Ground-breaking jockey forgoes comeback and plans to retire soon.

April 09, 1999|BILL CHRISTINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

She's only 4 feet 10, and she barely weighs 100 pounds, but Julie Krone threw her weight around in the male-dominated game of race riding.

She resented being called the best female jockey. "I'd like to think I'm one of the best jockeys, period." Krone said.

For a time, she was, but all that is ending now. Krone, 35, was seemingly on the verge of another comeback from injuries, but she announced Thursday in New York that she'll retire from riding soon. Her last ride may be aboard Desert Demon in the Lone Star Derby in Texas on April 18. The only thing that might extend Krone's career would be for Desert Demon to do well enough at Lone Star Park to run in the Kentucky Derby on May 1.

Krone never won a Derby--she rode in two--but in 1993 she became the only female jockey to win a Triple Crown race by riding Colonial Affair to a 13-1 upset in the Belmont Stakes. That was one of the highlights in a career that has brought 3,541 wins and $80 million in purses, both records for a woman.

"I'm on top, I'm 35 and I don't want to do this anymore," Krone said. "I don't want to get hurt anymore, and I've got nothing left to prove."

After suffered a fractured knee in a spill at the Meadowlands in November, Krone returned to work this winter at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Despite arriving at the meet late, she was the Fair Grounds' third-leading rider with 84 wins.

About two months after her Belmont win, Krone carved out a piece of history at Saratoga, becoming only the third jockey in the history of the ancient New York track to win five races in one day. But 10 days later, on the last day of the Saratoga season, Krone suffered a shattered right ankle when she was unseated by her mount and trampled by another horse. Two plates and 14 screws were needed to reconstruct the leg, and she didn't ride for nine months.

Upon her return, business had dried up and eventually some trainers said that she wasn't as aggressive as she'd been before the injury. Her 1995 marriage, to an Albany, N.Y., sportscaster, and therapy for depression helped, but the injuries just kept coming.

Born in Michigan and reared on a farm, Krone was 15 when she was brought to Churchill Downs by her mother, who altered her daughter's birth certificate so she could be licensed to gallop horses. At 17, Krone was riding at Tampa Bay Downs when she won her first race, on Feb. 12, 1981.

Krone earned her high school diploma after she started riding. She has talked about going to college full-time and majoring in psychology.

There were female jockeys before her, thanks to pioneers such as Patti Barton Diane Crump and Barbara Jo Rubin in the 1970s, but the jockeys' room door opened wider for women after Krone's career took off.

"If I've made a little girl braver than she might have been," Krone said Thursday, "and perhaps put a spark under someone who's had a bad day, then these will have been my best moments."

*

Running for the first time since winning the Breeders' Cup Sprint in November, Reraise was a powerful winner Thursday in the $125,000 Count Fleet Handicap at Oaklawn Park. Under high weight of 122 pounds, trainer Craig Dollase's 4-year-old colt ran early fractions of :21, :43 4/5 and :55 4/5 before finishing off six furlongs in a sparkling 1:08 2/5. He won by 2 3/4 lengths over Run Johnny, with jockey Corey Nakatani never going to the whip.

Dollase will remain at Oaklawn to saddle Saint's Honor, making his stakes debut Saturday in the $500,000 Arkansas Derby. Nakatani will also have that mount, on a colt who's adding blinkers after running third behind Straight Man and Lethal Instrument at Santa Anita.

The seven-horse race has also drawn Answer Lively and Ecton Park, who were second and third, respectively, in the Louisiana Derby. Answer Lively is winless in three starts since winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in November.

Horse Racing Notes

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