During the first phase of her ground-breaking as a Thoroughbred jockey–from 1981 to 1999–Julie Krone won 3,545 races, more than any woman…and most men.
After a 3 1/2-year hiatus, Krone made a dramatic comeback on Nov. 1, 2002, at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. Though she had spent little time in California during the earlier part of her career, West Coast racing fans soon figured out why Krone was the first woman to win riding championships at the most competitive racing meets in America, including Belmont Park in New York, Gulfstream Park in Miami, and on the New Jersey circuit of Monmouth Park, Atlantic City and the Meadowlands.
“She can talk to horses like few I’ve seen,” said three-time Kentucky Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert.
Krone’s first farewell to riding came on April 18, 1999, at Lone Star Park near Dallas. She was 35 at the time, with more than 20,000 races to her credit and upwards of $81 million earned for the owners of the horses she rode. On that bittersweet day in Texas she won three races, an occasion made all the more special by the presence of her mother, Judi Krone, who taught her daughter how to ride.
“My mom was suffering from cancer at the time, and I think I retired then to spend more time with her, as much as anything else,” Krone said. “Her being there on that day at Lone Star meant the world to me.” Judi Krone died in December of 1999.
That same year, Julie Krone was honored with induction into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas, joining such American icons as Sandra Day O’Connor, Annie Oakley, Dale Evans and Patsy Cline. The honor added to a record that already was unprecedented among women who compete on a level playing field with men. In 1993, she became the first woman to win a coveted Triple Crown event when she rode the 3-year-old colt Colonial Affair to victory in the Belmont Stakes. Krone was honored that year by the Women’s Sports Foundation as the Individual Sportswoman of the Year. She also was chosen by the ESPN television network as 1993 Professional Female Athlete of the Year.
Krone made history again on Aug. 7, 2000, at the National Museum of Racing in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., when she became the first woman to be inducted into the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame. Her name stands alongside such riding greats as Laffit Pincay, Bill Shoemaker, Angel Cordero, and her childhood idol, Steve Cauthen.
Krone’s list of achievements includes six-winner days at The Meadowlands (twice) and Monmouth Park, as well as a five-winner days at the prestigious Saratoga summer meeting in New York and the autumn meet at Santa Anita Park. Krone also has displayed her talents on the international stage, competing in Hong Kong, Sweden, England and Japan, where she became the first woman to both ride and win a race at Tokyo Race Course.
With her vibrant personality and superstar status, it was no surprise that Krone transcended the world of horse racing. She appeared on the cover of “Sports Illustrated” magazine and became a familiar face on such television programs as “The Tonight Show,” “The Late Show,” “The Today Show” and “Good Morning America.” David Letterman refers to Krone as, “my favorite jockey.”
During her time away from competition, Krone moved to California from her East Coast roots to work as a commentator and analyst for the TVG racing network and the Hollywood Park simulcast network. She also served as commercial spokesperson for Gulfstream Park Racetrack in Florida, and was a part of the award-winning radio broadcast of the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Championship at Churchill Downs in Kentucky.
Krone’s comeback was interrupted on March 8, 2003, when she was thrown at the start of a race at Santa Anita Park. She suffered three compressed vertabrae in mid-spine and two fractures in her lower back, as well as muscle and ligament damage. She returned to action four months later and tore into the subsequent Del Mar meeting with a vengeance, leading all riders in purse winnings while taking the top prize of the summer season, the $1 million Pacific Classic aboard the Argentine star Candy Ride.
The highlight of her comeback occurred on Oct. 25, 2003, at Santa Anita Park when Krone became the first woman to win a Breeders’ Cup race on the nationally televised championship day, riding favored Halfbridled to victory in the $1 million Juvenile Fillies.
Krone was leading her male counterparts in the standings at the December of 2003 Hollywood Park meeting when she was thrown in a two-horse collision and fractured two ribs. During her recuperation, she was named by USA Today as one of the 10 Toughest Athletes on a list that included Lance Armstrong, Shaquille O’Neal and Tiger Woods. Later, Krone was honored with the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award by the Women’s Sports Foundation. In 2013 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, N.Y., where such pioneering Americans as Eleanor Roosevelt, Ella Fitzgerald, Emily Dickinson and Georgia O’Keefe are enshrined.
Krone married Daily Racing Form columnist Jay Hovdey in May of 2001. She gave birth to their daughter, Lorelei Judith Krone, on Sept. 27, 2005. In retirement, Krone continues to maintain a close relationship with the Thoroughbred racing business while sharing her love of horses through motivational speeches, clinics, and private tutoring.
Julie Krone Facts & Figures
- Born July 24, 1963, Eau Claire, Michigan
- Mother, Judi Krone, award-winning dressage rider and all-around horse trainer
- Father, Don Krone, high school teacher in art and photography
- Brother, Donnie Krone, thoroughbred trainer
- First mount, Tiny Star, Jan. 30, 1981, Tampa Bay Downs
- First winner, Lord Farkle, Feb. 12, 1981, Tampa Bay Downs
- Career mounts – 21,415
- Career wins – 3,705
- Career purses earned by mounts – $90 million
- Member, Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame
- Member, National Women’s Hall of Fame
- Member, National Cowgirl Hall of Fame
- Member, Michigan Sports Hall of Fame
- Only woman to win a Triple Crown event (1993 Belmont Stakes).
- First woman to win a Breeders’ Cup event (2003 Juvenile Fillies).
- First woman to win a million-dollar event (2003 Pacific Classic)
- Won six races in one day at Monmouth Park and Meadowlands (twice).
- Won five winners in one day at Saratoga and Santa Anita Park.
- Champion jockey in wins at Belmont Park, Gulfstream Park, Monmouth Park, Atlantic
- City and the Meadowlands. Leading jockey in earnings, Del Mar and Hollywood Park (fall meet).
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