Jockeys lost the
urge to slash their whip across Krone's ear. More people started asking,
"Do you know that little girl, Krone?" the way they used to ask,
"Do you know that kid, Cauthen?" Not because she was as good as Cauthen
yet, but because she made people who didn't know a gelding from a gerund sit up
and take notice of horse racing, and that was good for all of them. Lavish
compliments began to come her way, like the one from the great Cordero, who
went so far as to grunt, "She don't ride like no girl rider." Even
Krone started to trust the idea a little bit, the idea that maybe she finally
And now that she
wasn't a female jockey anymore, she could be a female. She could wear dresses
and talk now and then about retiring in 10 years, having a baby or maybe
adopting one, settling down on a farm in Colorado. She still told herself she
was nothing if she lost—but now she did it only in the starting gate instead of
all the time. She still ate baby food from the jar and sugar out of the packet,
still used kiddie toothpaste, still did headstands on horses, still was afraid
of the dark, still was so damned hyperkinetic that she would leap up to grab
the bars that ran the length of a Hertz bus and astonish the businessmen by
swinging from the back to the front, scratching under her arms and screeching
like a monkey...but then, something had changed.
The guys in the
barn at Belmont were kicking it around just a few months ago. "You know
what it is?" said George Michalowski, an assistant trainer. "Julie
Krone's turning into someone you'd want to bring home to your mother."
And then one day
a writer came to see her. "Was all of it worth it?" he asked. "To
live for a dream, all the pain along the way?"
She looked at
him. "The pain?" she said. "I swear, I can barely remember any of
it." And then she went into her closet, pushed aside the two boxes of
photographs—one of animals, one of human beings—and pulled out a box full of
poems and diaries and letters....