Krone on road back after shattering spill

January 23, 1991|By Joseph Durso | Joseph Durso,New York Times News Service

Julie Krone slipped into a chair in front of two TV sets in the jockeys' lounge at Aqueduct and stared at the war pictures from the Persian Gulf.

She looked like a ballet dancer with mud on her face, a delicate figure at 4 feet 10 1/2 inches and 100 pounds, not counting the four-inch steel plate and the seven screws holding her left arm together.

The hardware is what's left from the two operations that followed a shattering spill 14 months ago at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.

She spent 8 1/2 of those months trying to repair her arm and her career as the ranking female jockey in America.

And all that happened one year after she took three spills in two violent weeks in an occupation that not many men (and far fewer women) select for their life's work.

She took the road back in July, rode 635 times in the next five months and won 142 times for $2.5 million in purses. So far, so good.

Now, she is riding on arctic afternoons at Aqueduct against senior stars such as Angel Cordero and Jean Cruguet, and she has won 10 times in 64 races, placing her near the top of the winter list.

Every day, though, she hears the question: Is she healed, emotionally and physically? Or, putting it bluntly, is she riding with memory and fear?

She nodded toward the TV screen, where Navy pilots were zooming jets from the deck of a carrier in the Persian Gulf, and said with some bite:

"How much would you want to be paid to do what those guys are doing?"

"Am I afraid?" she asked. "It's a good question. If someone could find out, I guess none of us would be riding. It's like a dream: You can't really explain to anybody else what's inside your head. All of us are aware of the danger all the time. You hope you'll be the lucky one."

It is difficult, talking to Julieanne Louise Krone of Benton Harbor, Mich., to realize that here is a bubbly, 27-year-old person who has ridden more than 12,100 race horses at major tracks across the country, and more than 2,000 times has walked her mount into the winner's circle.

No female jockey has ridden more winners in a career, or even in a day: She once rode four winners at Aqueduct in one day, five at the Meadowlands one evening and six at Monmouth one afternoon two months later.

But, in one wrenching stretch in 1988, she became starcrossed.

"I fell three times in 15 days that summer in New York," she said. "The first time, I won by 15 lengths at Aqueduct and the horse fell after crossing the wire. Then, a few days later, I was on the rail and Randy Romero was passing me and I fell. My horse ran me over, and I was out for a week with a busted chin and a bad back.

"When I came back, I remember telling my pony boy during the post parade, 'I'm not sore anymore.' Then I went out, and three of us got spilled. Chris Antley went down, Richie Migliore broke his neck and I hit the rail with my body, hurt my back and my legs and couldn't walk for three days.

"I always liked riding in New York. But after that happened, I switched to Monmouth. Why? Well, if you wrecked the same car three times, wouldn't you sell it?"

Even with all those spills, she won 363 races in 1988 and finished as the ninth-leading jockey in the United States.

The next year, she was doing even better.

By late November, she had won 368 races and $8 million in purses, and stood third in the country. Then one day at the Meadowlands, she took the big tumble.

"My horse just dropped," she said. "I hung on to the reins with my left hand as I went tumbling over his head, and he pulled my arm right out of the socket. I was out for 8 1/2 months. My arm was badly broken. It didn't heal after the operation, so they operated again. I didn't race again until July 27 last year."

She admits that life was antsy during the long layoff, but that's all she admits.

"I was never in doubt that I'd return," she said. "It was always 'When are you coming back?' Never 'if' you're coming back. My agent, Larry Cooper, stuck with me. When I went back to work, he was there at 8 o'clock in the morning. A lot of agents are business partners. Larry's my friend.

"Sometimes my arm will hurt now if I turn it a certain way. But when I'm riding, I hold the reins in both hands and don't feel any pain in my left arm."

Cordero, who is 48 and pre-eminent, walked over, talked a few moments with Krone, then said to the world in general: "She's all right in my book."

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