Jockey Krone races through life, with only part of it on horseback

August 30, 1993|By Bill Finley | Bill Finley,New York Daily News

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- She says she needs to go over business with a few trainers as she pulls up to Bill Mott's barn a minute or two after 7:30 Friday morning and steps out of her black Mitsubishi. It's a half truth. Trainers are fine, most people are, but it is really the horses Julie Krone came to see. She has her priorities, and animals always come ahead of people.

As this day begins for Krone, at 30 far and away the most successful female jockey in history, she quickly goes over the sixth race with Mott, one of her best customers. Krone will ride Dahlia's Dreamer for him, and she might be in for a hard time -- the filly is headstrong, and the jockey must be careful to avoid a speed duel, which would spoil any chance she may have. This is work; time must be set aside for fun.

Within minutes, Krone and her companion for the day, 19-year-old Alison Petruzzo, who cares for Krone's riding horses on her farm in Colts Neck, N.J., scoot across Nelson Avenue to the Allen Jerkens barn. Waiting for them is Consider the Lily, a 2-year-old filly Krone will ride in the Spinaway. Waiting for Consider the Lily is a bunch of purple grapes the jockey has brought.

"Look at her -- putty, putty in my hands," a giggling Krone says as she plants a kiss on her favorite filly's nose and feeds her the treat. "She's like a big puppy dog."

Back to business. Krone must see trainer Gasper Moschera, but he is not at his barn, so a note is left telling him she came by. And she cannot resist scribbling a postscript. "Mike Smith ... yuch," it says, followed by a drawing of a hideous face. Just having fun.

"I try as hard as I can to hate Mike, and I can't," she said of the jockey she is trying to unseat for the Saratoga riding crown. Smith has won the last two Saratoga meets, but Krone goes into the day two behind him. "He's a wonderful person, humorous, compassionate. . . . and I think he's kind of cute."

After a visit to Bob Klesaris' barn, she heads through the Oklahoma section of the backstretch to see trainer Mohammed Moubarak, who puts her to work. Krone climbs aboard Royal Minister, her Hopeful mount, and takes him to the training track for a three-furlong workout. The chestnut colt gets an affectionate pat as they return to the barn, and Krone responds as if she had sat on Secretariat. "Did you see how well he finished?" she says to anyone within shouting range.

It's an easy morning. The meet is almost over and winding down, which leaves Krone with a few free hours. She heads home, washes the car -- a daily ritual -- and goes to the National Museum of Racing.

Wearing khaki shorts, a T-shirt and a baseball cap, she could be any tourist. Of course, tourists aren't stopped every four feet for autographs. Krone and Petruzzo watch a racing movie, peer at a few exhibits, watch a tape of Hall of Famer Dahlia, the dam of Dahlia's Dreamer.

"This place strengthens your roots," she said. "I didn't get into racing until I was 14, and I feel like I missed a lot. I'm not like a jockey when I come here; I'm more of a fan."

It's a few minutes past 11, and Krone must head back across Union Avenue to the track. The next 90 minutes are hers, the only time of the day she can relax and devote to herself.

She will nap for 30 minutes, get the day's scratches and do her handicapping so she can plot strategies.

It is not a good day. Krone rides her 16th straight loser and, even worse, Smith, who has had two winners on the day, pulls four ahead of her in the jockey's race.

"I'd be lying if I said the riding title didn't matter to me," she said. "It does, and it appears that it'll be difficult to catch him. You feel defeated, and you feel like crying. You try and handle it and give the appearance that nothing is bothering you. The discipline it takes to do that is incredible."

Still, the frustration seeps through a crack. Not always girlishly cute and sweet, she is difficult with upstate reporters covering the Seneca.

It's past 6, and the races are over, but Julie Krone still has to be Julie Krone. There is dinner with an important owner, Dr. Jim Hill. Great, except the shower in the female jockeys' quarters isn't working right.

Then there is a Reba McEntire concert at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. "Great show," is her two-word review. Great, except the doorknob on her rented house breaks.

At 1:15 in the morning, one day ends. Another begins only a few hours later when she will fly to Chicago to ride Aquilegia in the Beverly D. at Arlington Park. Being Julie Krone is a full-time job.

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