Julie Vader is an SI reporter whose principal beat coincides with her main passion—horses. Last week her assignment was to assist William Nack in his coverage of the Breeders' Cup races (page 46): in 2� years on the job, she has roamed shedrows from Hollywood Park to Gulfstream with notepad and pencil.
Born in Minneapolis in 1956, the daughter of Frank and Dorothy Vader, she grew up in a variety of towns in Minnesota, Montana and Michigan—wherever General Motors sent her father, who is a marketing manager. She inherited a love of horses from her mother. Says Julie, "The third word I learned was horse or, as I pronounced it, 'hoiss.' Seriously. Mom, dad and hoiss."
When she was 16 her folks bought her a saddle horse named Jubilee. On one summer vacation from the University of Michigan, Vader worked at the Arabian horse farm in Bridgewater, Conn. owned by film and stage director Mike Nichols.
Before becoming a reporter, Vader worked for the SI letters department for 1� years. All the while she honed the handicapping skills she began developing at the age of eight at a South Dakota track called Park Jefferson. In 1982 Vader entered a New York handicapping contest with 50,000 others and finished in the top 25.
Vader recently returned from Great Britain, where she substituted for our vacationing regular correspondent, Lavinia Scott Elliot. In her month in London, she rode along Rotten Row in Hyde Park, where she found herself the photographic subject of many American tourists. "I'm probably in the photo album of some couple from Michigan who thought I was a typical Brit when, in fact, I'm just somebody from Michigan," Vader says. She also rode in a gymkhana in Argyll, Scotland ("No, they didn't wear funny socks") and finished first in the handy pony competition.
Vader's other area of expertise is hockey, and it's only fitting that she once wrote about a horse named Gretzky. But she does prefer the track to the rink. "The backstretch at 6:30 in the morning is the best setting in sports," she says. "It's even better than the Edmonton Oilers' morning skate. The other thing I like better about horse racing is that you can't very well go up and pet the hockey players before a game."