One day, on her
return to the paddock after a race at Keystone, a jockey named Maryann Alligood
threatened to punch her lights out the moment they got back to the jocks' room.
A woman? Julie Krone dashed up the tunnel, ducked into the first-aid station
New York is unbeliveable. Me, Debi, Larry and Chuck got chaufered to the city
by Fox. We saw wierdos ate good food and I got drunk. Ha Ha. I'm having a good
time and even working harder. Cordero tells me how to ride all the time. You
would have to see what I was doing to belive it.
They found the
marijuana in her car at Bowie on Feb. 18, 1983. It could have been worse. They
could have found cocaine. There was something about the way she lived—wringing
everything out of herself and pouring it into a funnel—that made every hour
away from the funnel seem empty, that made her look for ways to feel as alive
when she went home at night as she had felt bringing a 30-1 shot home in the
She began to
learn the dreamer's hardest lesson, the one about consequences, the one about
4'10½" jockeys with chipmunk voices—yes, even them—having to give up being
little girls and become women. She received a 60-day suspension and was ordered
to attend a drug rehabilitation class and urinate into a jar once a week for a
year. She stood and stared through the wire mesh at Pimlico, horseless for the
first time since she was two—fenced out. It scared her so badly that it made
her go clean. And it made her think about her brother, Donnie, who had given up
his dream of racing cars to become an exercise rider in Maryland and who would
be suspended from the track twice for drug use. And it made her sit still for a
minute and write:
In the quiet of
When the dark was falling fast
I sat in my room and thought of the things
I had done in the years gone past.
So agervated did my mind wander for I knew I had miss understood
The importance of that extra something
That separets evil from good.
Her first day
back from the suspension, she had two races at Pimlico. She won both. She went
on to win the Atlantic City riding title again in '83, but broke her back and
missed four months of racing when she came off a horse during a workout at
Laurel. Her career was like her driving—bursts of speed and sudden stops.
"I never let anything bother me," she would tell people. Her stomach
began to burn, the beginnings of an ulcer.
She found love at
the racetrack, assistant trainer Steve Brown, the first man she had a real
relationship with. But when he asked her to stop riding at two tracks a day so
he could see her now and then, she couldn't bring herself to do it. Love—yes,
she craved it—but emotional intimacy? Whoa, boy, wait a minute, who said
anything about that? He walked away. She flirted with him again, became the
little girl whispering cute little things in his ear, but she couldn't get him
back. Consequences, consequences....
She was 21.
Suddenly she realized how alone she was, how much she ached for a center of
gravity in her adult life, just as she had in her childhood. She went to
Brown's apartment when he was gone one day, sat on the floor, picked up an
X-Acto knife and studied her wrists. That would teach him. That would teach
Then it hit her.
Death would put her out of the running for the best jock of all time. She put
down the blade, went into an 0-for-80 slump, screamed "I quit! I quit!"
coming down the backstretch one day. And yet, there was something so
irrepressible, so unsinkable about her. She would go into her room after a grim
day, replay everything she had done wrong in her entire life, but rather than
cry she would pummel one of her teddy bears for half an hour, tell herself over
and over, "This can't go on. I won't allow it to go on," then come out
of the room, grab a kitchen knife and order her current agent, Larry (Snake)
Cooper, to get her better horses—now.
trying, I'm trying," Cooper would plead.