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Bittersweet Victory
William Nack
June 14, 1993
Julie Krone rode Colonial Affair to a historic win in a Belmont Stakes marred by the death of Prairie Bayou
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June 14, 1993

Bittersweet Victory

Julie Krone rode Colonial Affair to a historic win in a Belmont Stakes marred by the death of Prairie Bayou

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What made the death of Prairie Bayou especially wrenching was that he was the second horse in this year's Triple Crown races to die as the result of injuries. While running down the backstretch in the Preakness, Union City shattered the sesamoid bones in his right front ankle and had to be destroyed. Such fatal injuries have been rare in Triple Crown races. Union City was the first horse to be put down because of an injury sustained in a Triple Crown race since Black Hill had to be destroyed after breaking down in the 1959 Belmont Stakes. While there has been considerable speculation since the Preakness that physical problems may have contributed to the breakdown of Union City (SI, May 24), no such suspicions attended Prairie Bayou's appearance in the Belmont.

Back at the barn, half an hour after his horse had been destroyed, a distraught Anthony was at a loss to explain what had happened. "The question that everyone has is, How can a horse galloping along well within himself, absolutely sound, hit the ground and break himself up like that?" said Anthony. "I don't have an answer. Let me emphasize that this was an absolutely sound horse, perhaps the soundest horse in the barn. He was galloping along at a very slow pace, in the back of the pack, doing what he'd always done, under no stress—it's something you can't explain. A bad step might wrench an ankle or cause a minor injury, but here the horse shattered his leg beyond repair."

As dusk fell, an air of gloom pervaded Bohannan's barn, and stable workers walked the shed in silence. Prairie Bayou's stall, number 18, was dark and empty. A sign next to the stall door announced it as the home of the 1993 Preakness winner. "Horrible, just horrible," said Bohannan's assistant, Lee Taylor. "He was the neatest horse. Like a big old dog. You could do anything with him. They say you're not supposed to get attached to them, but it's hard when you're with them from 4:30 in the morning to six o'clock at night. He was like a pet."

If the loss of Prairie Bayou hung a sadness over the Belmont, there was no obscuring Krone's performance. Her victory demonstrated what many horsemen and horseplayers have known for years—that Julieanne Louise Krone, all 4'10�" and 100 pounds of her, is not only the most capable and accomplished female ever to ride a racehorse, but also one of the nation's finest jockeys, period. Krone rode her first winner, a beast named Lord Farkle, on Feb. 12, 1981, at Tampa Bay Downs, and it wasn't long before she was going head and head with the best riders in New Jersey, where she was the leading jockey at Atlantic City for two years running, in 1982 and '83.

She was, quite simply, on her way. In 1987 she became the first woman to win a riding title at a major racetrack when, at Monmouth Park near the Jersey shore, she led all riders, with 130 wins. She won two more titles at Monmouth, in 1988 and '89, and three more at the Meadowlands, from '88 to '90, before she switched her tack to New York. In 1992, when she led all riders at Belmont Park's spring meeting, with 73 victories, her mounts won a whopping $9.2 million. Krone was ranked ninth in the nation in money earned that year, and she found herself riding for some of the most powerful trainers on the Belmont Park grounds, including Hall of Famer Schulhofer.

For years one of the chief criticisms of women riders has been that they lack the strength to compete with men, particularly in the last eighth of a mile, when tiring animals need to be pushed and muscled to the wire. "Julie's as strong as anybody," says Schulhofer. "She can get down and knuckle on a horse with the best of them. She doesn't get beat by too many noses. She'll ride with them all the last eighth."

Krone grew up on a farm in Eau Claire, Mich., riding horses from an early age, and she brought to the racetrack an uncanny knack for getting nervous, high-strung animals to relax for her. "She's got a great feel for horses," Schulhofer says. "They just respond to her."

Krone and Schulhofer certainly had Colonial Affair figured out on Saturday. After a mediocre 2-year-old season in which he won only once in four starts—a maiden race at Aqueduct—Schulhofer gave Colonial Affair the winter off in Florida and raced him lightly this spring. A son of 1981 Kentucky Derby winner Pleasant Colony, out of a mare by the English champion Nijinsky II, Colonial Affair is bred for distance, and Schulhofer started aiming him for the 1�-mile Belmont Stakes on April 9, when he hoisted Krone aboard the colt for a seven-furlong allowance race at Aqueduct. Colonial Affair exploded the last eighth of a mile and won by 8� lengths.

A month later at Belmont Park, Krone kept him off the pace in a second allowance race before driving him to the lead inside the eighth pole. He won by almost two lengths. Finally, in his last prep race leading to last Saturday, Schulhofer saddled Colonial Affair for the nine-furlong Peter Pan Stakes, again at Belmont, on May 23. This time Krone kept him too close to the pace, not letting him relax, and he took the lead coming to the eighth pole. "My horse was bored making the lead," Krone said. "He was floating around like a kid goofing off." Virginia Rapids blew past him deep in the stretch to win by almost two lengths. "We learned from that race," Schulhofer said.

One of the knocks against Krone was that she had come up short in the major races, because, for all the winners she had ridden—2,550 through last year—Krone had won only five Grade I stakes. On the eve of the Belmont, Schulhofer told her, "They say you can't win the big ones, but this is just another race. Let him relax the first part of it. Be patient. You can do it."

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