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Q&A: Julie Krone
Hall of Fame jockey recently won the Doncaster Leger Legends race in England.
Birthdate: July 24, 1963, in Benton Harbor, Mich.
Family: husband, Jay Hovdey; daughter, Lorelei
Got into racing because . . . My family was pretty active with horses and 4-H. We also had goats and other various farm animals. I watched racing on television – Secretariat and Ruffian. I got a little scared after Ruffian. I didn’t understand the whole thing. To that point in my life, I hadn’t experienced any significant death, horse or human. That kind of put me off, but by the time Steve Cauthen came around I was more than ready. I had read the book “The Kid” by Pete Axthelm, devoured “The Lady is a Jock,” every single line. A friend of my mom’s had an extensive library of racing books in his home.
How did it feel to be race riding again? Splendid, especially considering the circumstances surrounding the event. I had to fly that far. I was getting ready all summer, because you can’t kind of be ready to ride a race, at least I can’t. But I was never the worse for wear. I feel a little confused. I’m sitting on an Equicizer right now, and at the same time I’m doing laundry. I’m literally all over the map. It was so dang fun. Crazy cool.
Last year, you broke your left leg badly in a pleasure-riding accident. How much personal satisfaction did you get coming back from that injury to win at Doncaster? All the times I broke something, I don’t recall breaking a bone somewhere in the middle. It’s a lot nicer. It’s a lot easier to recover from. The pain is different than breaking a joint. All the other ones were trauma to the bone where it had to be reconstructed, or a joint, and that’s different than straight-across bone. I can’t feel it at all. I can just tell by the huge scar.
That was your first race in nearly three years, since a similar race at an Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita. Is it fun to compete with some old friends? It’s really fun. It messed me all up. Do I want to ride? Do I not want to ride? But it was so easy for me, and it’s some fun. I don’t need to diet.
Are you looking to do more? I don’t have any extreme ideas. Time is just going by, and I’m just letting my feelings sort themselves out. You can’t really control that stuff. If it’s indeed big and what I live for, I have to do this, I’d rather take my time and not be hasty. A choice like that wouldn’t just affect me. It would affect a lot of different things.”
That’s more than “no.” If I couldn’t stop it, if I felt like it was such a great thing, then I’d give it some consideration. Right now, I’m just waiting for my feelings to sort themselves out.
But would you at least do another charity race? Oh, sure. Definitely.
Other than that race at Santa Anita, your daughter, now 6 years old, had never seen you ride in a race. What was her reaction to seeing you win? This summer I worked as an exercise rider at Del Mar for Richard Mandella. Halfway through the summer, she was like, “Do we ever win?” She’d get all dressed up, but every time she came out, it seemed like we were running second. It was a hard summer for her. But because of that, my winner meant even more to her. She said, “Mom, I knew you would win, finally.” That made me feel pretty good. She said, “I thought we were going to come all the way to England and still not have a winner.” It meant a lot to her. If we hadn’t lost all those other times, she wouldn’t have known how good it feels to win.
What would you say to Lorelei if she told you she wanted to follow in your footsteps and be a jockey? She has the fantasies of a child. I don’t mind if she says that now. You know when they’re passionate; that’s when they take it to the next level. Right now, we’re just happy with anything she’s happy with.
She’s quite the precocious tomboy. Were you that way as a child, too? I think I was in a little better mood than she is. She’s a little more pensive than people think she is. Jay sees himself sometimes.
She’s very athletic like you, though. She was riding her pony for two hours yesterday. Her riding was really beautiful. This is the first season where she’s accomplishing things with her pony. She sets a goal and attains it. It’s interesting for that age. I was well into my third championship by then. I had already become obsessed with horses. Nothing else existed. But for me, having horses in our backyard when I was a child was a lot easier than driving somewhere in order for her to ride.
What else did you and your family do during your visit to the UK? We went to the Northern Racing College the day before the race, and I worked with a horse whose specialty is the starting gate. My reins were too long. In England, you keep your reins a little shorter, and you don’t have an assistant starter in the gate, so the connection in the gate is a little more prominent. You are more continuous with the horse. The practice the day before made a big difference. After all these years, you can still learn stuff. We went to Bolton Abbey. It was so, so beautiful.
We went to a Rugby League match. The [Huddersfield] Giants played Leeds. It was really intense. It’s such a visually impressive game to watch, even to the unsophisticated eye. It’s real fast and honest. The guys have to have a lot of integrity to dig down and show so much. It’s fast and action-packed. The personalities come out really fast with the players. There’s the crusty rough guy, and the speedy new guy. It’s a really cool game. And we went to an area to see some limestone, but they told us, “They’re shooting.” Since I’m from California, I heard that and I said, “What movie?” That’s what we’re used to here when we hear, “They’re shooting.” They said, “They’re shooting grouse. You can’t go there.”
You had to give up a potential gig on “Survivor” to compete in the race. Is there a chance we will see you in a future season of “Survivor?” I think they call you back when there’s another season, and they need my personality type. It would have started before Del Mar, on June 10 or so. They don’t tell you where it will be. It is a secret location.
Does it give you personal satisfaction to see the success of riders like Rosie Napravnik and Chantal Sutherland, who clearly have benefited by the trail you blazed? I think it’s cool. In fact, I was just looking to see how Greta Kuntzweiler was doing. She’s talented. She had a setback, but I think she’s doing really well now. She’s just getting back to how she can look. She looks more and more healthy. I love it when the girls do well. I was disappointed when I found out Hayley Turner had been hurt. It happened right before we went to see her in Europe.
What else keeps you busy these days? I pleasure ride every day, and I do my karate.
Future ambitions? It would be really cool if a college that teaches people how to ride would call me up to teach. That would be really cool. Like the Northern Racing College, the one in York.