NEVER MIND THE KITTENISH MANNER. Jockey Julie Krone is as tough as they come—and Frank Ariosta knows it. Ariosta, a Staten Island, N.Y., orthopedic surgeon, is doing his best to dissuade the irrepressible Krone from putting any weight on her right ankle, shattered in an Aug. 30 racing accident. He is showing her one grotesque X-ray after another of patients who did not let their injuries heal. “See that deformity,” he says. “That could happen to you.”
“Ooooh, that’s scary!” says Julie, her eyes wide with mock fear.
The trouble is that the pictures can’t compare in horror with the moment when Krone, 30, the winningest woman jockey ever, was thrown from her mount, Seattle Way, at New York’s Saratoga Race Course. Her ankle was smashed in 11 places, and then she was kicked in the chest by a horse that thundered over her. “If I hadn’t been wearing my Tipperary vest [similar to a bulletproof vest], I might not be here,” says Krone, who suffered a cardiac contusion. “For the first time, I said to myself, ‘This is dangerous!’ ”
Krone was at the quarter pole at Saratoga when jockey Filiberto Leon, who had been boxed in, steered Bejilla Lass into Seattle Way, knocking her from the saddle. “I did a 180,” says Krone, “so I was sitting facing the oncoming horses. Pow! I got hit in the heart. My arm was cut so you could see the elbow socket. My ankle hurl so bad I kept thinking, ‘Pass out. Please, pass out!’ But I didn’t.”
Krone was rushed to Saratoga Hospital, where her condition was stabilized. But even with morphine, the pain was wicked. “I spent five hours just crying my eyes out,” says Krone. The next day she was flown to Stalen Island University Hospital in New York City, where Ariosta inserted two titanium plates and 14 screws into her ankle.
During her three weeks i n the hospital, says the 4’10”, 100-pound Krone, she was on a “roller coaster of emotions.” Fortunately her friends were as constant as the pain. Top jockeys such as Mike Smith and Jose Santos made visits; one friend smuggled in her cat, Snicklefrilz; another brought a squirt gun to douse the doctors. “People wrote me long letters about their own injuries and sent pictures of me their kids did in crayon,” says Krone. “Il was overwhelming. It made me feel, like, fed.”
Krone grew up on a horse farm in Eau Claire, Mich. (pop. 494), where her father, Don, was an art teacher and her mother, Judy, competed in horse shows. Ask Don about Julie’s childhood and he says, “It was like going to a rocket launch every day. She was always on her pony, and she always had some trick to show you. She was fearless. One day she was up high in a tree. I said to her, ‘Better look out. You’ll fall.’ She answered, T already did. Watch me climb.’ ”
In 1978, Krone was at home watching TV as Steve Caulhen won the Belmont Stakes lo clinch the Triple Crown aboard Affirmed. “1 turned to my mom,” remembers Krone, who was 14, “and I said, T want to be a jockey.’ ” She rode her first race on Jan. 30, 1981, and 13 days later entered her first winner’s circle.
All told, Krone, who has a 10-acre spread in central New Jersey, has won 2,762 races and more than $53 million in purses. Last June she won the Belmont aboard Colonial Affair to become the first woman ever to win a leg of the Triple Crown.
Until her accident, Krone’s whole life had been horses. “The rest of it,” she liked lo say, “is wasted time.” But she is quick to admit that the fall and her injuries changed her. “My lifeline was racing and winning,” she says. “Then, suddenly, it became my friends and fans. Thinking you don’t need anyone, that’s not real life. I’ve aged internally.” She has also, apparently, fallen in love. She will say only that he’s a doctor, about her age, whom she met in the hospital.
Krone expects lo be riding again by July 1. Her return won’t be easy. Her jockey pals may have visited her in the hospital, but they won’t cut her any slack al the track. “I’m going to have to prove myself all over again,” says Krone. “I’m sure there will be people thinking, ‘Oh, she’s going to be scared now.’ With racing, you never rest on your laurels, and there are no counterfeits.”
With additional reporting by BRYAN ALEXANDER