Julie the Greatest
Julie Krone was born in Michigan in 1963 and began riding horses at the age of two. By the age of five she was competing in events at shows and County Fairs. Her mother was an accomplished dressage rider and a strong supporter of Julie’s ambitions. At the age of 16 Julie became an apprentice at Churchill Downs in Kentucky.
Julie at only 4’ 10” and weighing barely 45kg showed tremendous balance, courage and race sense and a strong focus on achieving her goals. By the age of 25 she was acknowledged as the best female jockey in history. In 1992 she became the first lady rider to mount up in the Kentucky Derby. In the following year she became the first female winner of a Triple Crown event- the Belmont Stakes on Colonial Affair. She later became the first lady rider to win a Breeder’s Cup event. Julie won six races in one day at Monmouth Park. Six at Meadowlands (twice) and until a few years ago was the only woman of the 200 or so members of the American Racing Hall Of Fame.
It’s a Tough Business
Despite her achievements it has not always been smooth sailing for Julie. In 1983 she was out for 4 months with a broken back. In 1993 she was out for 9 months following a fall which resulted in smashed ribs and a bruised heart.. Her mercurial and exuberant spirit masked her bouts of depression following these injuries but she fought on. During her last recuperation in 2003, her toughness was recognized in an article in USA Today. The sports writers rated her as one of America’s 10 toughest athletes. The list included Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods and Shaquille O’Neal. Julie retired in 2004 with 3,704 career wins and $90m in stakes with only 16 men ranked above her in terms of earnings.
Julie might be tough but I found her to be charming, witty, kind and generous and wonderful company. She is one of those few people about who you can say “She is better as a person than she is at her profession.” She now lives in Carlsbad California with husband Jay and daughter Lorelei.
But has she really retired? At the Doncaster St Ledger meeting in September 2011, after seven years in retirement, Julie rode Invincible Hero to victory in the Ledger Legends race. . The race has 18 runners and three of her opposing jockeys has won the English Derby. The Guardian newspaper described Julie as “a class apart”.