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On an otherwise idyllic seaside afternoon a few years ago at Del Mar, Julie Krone dismounted after a race, grabbed a tack bucket and made a beeline for an opposing jockey.
"Hey, Jay," said the West's tallest handicapper, Bob Ike, peering down from the pressbox balcony. "I think your wife's gonna hit somebody."
Well, no one got hit, but the public display of temper got Krone a $300 fine from the stewards. It also got her a hero's welcome from her colleagues, both on horseback and on foot, since the object of her ire was a notoriously erratic rider who, according to just about everyone who rode against him, put others in jeopardy far more often than should have been officially tolerated. The next day, Krone had a dozen people offer to pay her fine.
This happy little tale came to mind Sunday morning when word went out that six trainers in New York offered themselves as the cutting edge of a dramatic protest over the failure of the New York politicians to get the slot machine ball rolling at Aqueduct. Those half dozen -- hereafter to be known as the Big A-6 -- each were fined $500 for failing to bring their horses to the detention barn by the 8 a.m. deadline. There were other costs inflicted by the cancellation of a race, including tax dollars, purse money and whatever the house gets, as well as any bad blood incurred among horseplayers convinced they had the first race nailed. I would submit, however, that desperate times require desperate measures, and the message sent by New York's horsemen at large hopefully served to shed a bright and shining light on the bizarre political stranglehold holding back a revenue stream that has been legally approved.
Of course, you can't embarrass a politician into doing the right thing. (I will avoid the temptation of citing news clips from South Carolina, Louisiana, Minnesota and the other 47 states in which the duly elected misbehave). Whatever public monies were lost in that single race is chump change compared to the huge number running on the meter as long as the New York slots aren't coming on line. If New York's elected state representatives are not moved by the millions in slot revenue lost, or the dire threat to the economic health of an honorable industry, what will get their attention? At some point the people in the street will grow exhausted by the counter-productive behavior of some latter-day court of Borgias running the show. Instead of cancelling a race here and there -- or even a Belmont Stakes, as NYRA CEO Charlie Hayward had the courage to utter aloud -- it might be time to cancel out the political careers of the governors, state senators and assembly members blocking progress. But what do I know? I'm from California, and everything is just fine out here.
What New York racing needs right now is Newt Gingrich, or at least some local New York version. Love him or not, Gingrich is the guy who flipped an entire branch of the U.S. government in 1994 by writing 10 things on a cocktail napkin and then repeating them over and over and over and over. To move the VLT issue sooner than later, there needs to be a face and a voice, wailing loud and long and into the night, every single day into whatever media megaphone is handy: "Save Jobs, Slots Now, Save Jobs."
Look, I know and everybody knows that slot machines are nothing more than a crutch for horse racing. And the crutch is already crumbling at some pari-mutuel/casino sites where the casino side is looking for reasons to dump the horses, or the dogs. Unless the pre-nup is ironclad (see Woodbine), the romance between horses and slots was never going to last longer than the average Hollywood marriage.
Still, the law is the law, and the sport in New York deserves the chance that slot money could provide competitive footing with its neighbors. Hats off to the Big A-6. Fed up with the system, they took one for the team. Prorated over the industry, those fines won't amount to much, but neither will the gesture unless so-called public servants can be convinced that there is such a thing as the greater good.
After word got out about my wife's freak injury at the facility where she boards and trains pleasure horses, there were a lot of very kind comments posted to this site, completely off topic and deeply appreciated. She is home now, after a week in the hospital, where the surgeon who put her left femur back together complained daily about the mass of muscle he needed to cut through to get to the bone.
"What did you do, exactly?" he wondered aloud, apparently unable to work the Google machine.
The last time I saw an incision like hers was on Chris McCarron, and before that Bill Shoemaker, so she is in good company, even if she didn't earn hers on the traditional field of play. There will be a certain amount of rehab before Julie Krone walks the walk again, but when she's ready, there is a beautiful palomino mare waiting for her, and she's already forgiven Julie for letting another horse mess her up.
Just something a little off topic. A somewhat thorn with the DRF. Why after 47 plus races on a 5K claimer in Arizona they still say stupid things like the sire was a 1/2 brother to millionare whatever and the dam was half kin to Prekness runner up whatever...I think after 47 races and it being a 5k claimer. You know what you have already. What you see is what you get. Why waste print space. Tell me something with real insight. I get tired of reading useless info.
OMG. JULIE PLEASE GET WELL SOON. HEY JAY, I SHOULD OF MADE MY MOVE SOONER WHEN JULIE WAS AT SARATOGA. BUT THE WAY YOU ALWAYS SPEAK OF HER. IM SO GLAD SHE ENDED UP WITH SOMEONE AS NICE AS YOU. TAKE GOOD CARE OF HER AS I KNOW YOU WILL. BEST OF LUCK TO BOTH OF YOU.
Jay: Thank you for taking time from the troubles in your own neck of the woods to shed some light on the embarassing mess that is NY racing. Apparently some positive action was taken over the weekend and 12 NYRA employees making 1.2 million annually were terminated;reports I've read say that 6 or 7 of these terminated employees were what used to be called secretaries, but in these politically correct times are referred to as "personal asssistants" or "administrative assistants". So these secretaries I guess are the ones who are responsible for the dilapidated state of the physical plant at Aqueduct, are responsible for the awful racing cards which were presented this winter meet, are responsible for the politically motivated decision to bow down to the New York State Greeders? As to Ms K., a speedy recovery. I still have my grandstand pass from the 1993 Belmont Stakes, the day the woman who is arguably the greatest female professional athlete of all time made history on Colonial Affair.
Jay: Glad to hear that Julie will be okay and I'm sure "back in the saddle" before you know it. I do recall that during her race riding days, I always felt extra-confident if she was on the horse I had my money on. I had the same feeling whenever a Velazquez, Cordero, or current-day Dominguez or Garcia are on my horse -- I know my pick won't get beat by a better ride. As a horseplayer, that's about the highest compliment I can pay a rider. She was right up there with the best. Here's to a speedy recovery!
Had a friend that broke a femur. Biggest bone in the body I'm told. So sorry, as JK was an all time fav. Get well soon. As for NY, well it's NY and probably beyond fixing. Those with sense (cue: air-raid sirens) can feel the enemy.
Jay, I want to go on record as being in agreement with Prozacjack. Julie (tinkerbell with an attitude) always rode for the highest placing she could get as far as I could tell. You are a lucky man to have found someone like her.
Will never forget the first time I saw Julie at Calder Race Course. She was riding Sweet Blow Pop. She was having a lot of success and it looked apparent that the jockeys decided to tighten things up for her. Well, she was dropped in the stretch. As she marched from the turf course back to the apron of the track and towards the paddock her nose was bleeding. She had a stream of blood down her face which she stubbornly refused to wipe away. People were stupidly yada-yadaing her, but her presence , her focus was so great and she was so angry that I felt the need to back up from the rail. I have never seen such a purposeful stomp, I was certainly glad I wasn't the one she was headed for. Looking like the good guy sheriff in an epic western, Julie gained my undying respect that day. She could not have looked any tougher if she had pistols attached to both hips, a rifle in her hands and was referred to as The Duke. Get Well Julie!
I'm so glad to see this get so much hype. It seems when something in this industry needs to go down, everyone waits for the complaints to gather up. Not to mention it would help everyone out. PA racinos are going pretty well and harm absolutely no one, but then again our state's horse racing quality is next to horrible. The fact is NY has the surroundings to provide an outstanding scene for the industry 12 months a year. If the "Big A" doesn't improve soon it looses its luster. THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE. Hopefully, attention will be given, after all this happens. Thanks to Jay for bringing this up, its much needed
Hi There!! Please tell the best female jockey (is that sexist??) there ever was....please take care of her self!!! FT
Dear Jay, I hope and wish a speedy recovery to "The Best female rider of all time. And what made her great is the FACT she REALLY wanted to win on every MOUNT, Which puts her in a VERY "ELITE" group, that includes the likes of Johnny Longden, Laffitt Pincay, and Russell Baze. Jockey"s that ALWAYS try is a RARE commodity in today"s world of "Money Riders" Julie in my PROFESSIONAL opinion was an "HONEST JOCK" and there is NO higher honor.. LOL