03/10/2003 12:00AM

Krone breaks bones in back


ARCADIA, Calif. - Hall of Fame jockey Julie Krone faces two to three months on the sidelines after suffering two broken bones in her lower back and two compression fractures of vertebrae in a spill at Santa Anita on Saturday.

Krone's injuries will not require surgery, and she will wear a brace on her lower back to facilitate healing.

"I'm definitely making a comeback," she said Sunday evening. Krone, who will turn 40 in July, is the sport's top winning female jockey. She returned to riding in early November after an absence of 3 1-2 years.

The incident occurred in Saturday's fifth race. Riding 9-1 Sublet, Krone was unseated when her mount stumbled at the start of a sprint on the hillside turf course. Krone, starting from the second post position, was thrown heavily to the ground but clear of her mount and the other horses. She was able to walk into an ambulance and was later taken to Arcadia Methodist hospital where x-rays revealed the extent of her injuries.

Through Sunday, Krone was fifth in the standings with 33 wins, well behind leading jockey Patrick Valenzuela who has 69 victories.

The spill was the latest in a series of accidents at Santa Anita in recent weeks. Since Feb. 20, there have been 10 incidents of jockeys falling in spills, being unseated after races or in post parades. Laffit Pincay Jr., the sport's all-time leader in victories, suffered fractures to the second cervical vetebra of his neck in a spill on March 1. Pincay, 56, is out indefinitely and will be required to wear a halo device for about eight weeks to immobilize his head.

On Sunday, jockey Gary Stevens escaped injury when he was unseated from the longshot Memogram during the post parade of the ninth race. Stevens said he had the "wind knocked out of him" in the fall. Memogram was scratched.