Krone Seeking Breeders' Cup Breakthrough

ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) _ It&#39;s been seven years since Julie Krone last climbed aboard a Breeders&#39; Cup starter. <br><br>The wait is just about over, but there&#39;s an even longer wait the jockey would

Friday, October 24th 2003, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) _ It's been seven years since Julie Krone last climbed aboard a Breeders' Cup starter.

The wait is just about over, but there's an even longer wait the jockey would like to end _ winning her first Breeders' Cup race.

``It would skyrocket my joy and my feelings would be off the scale,'' Krone said. ``It would probably be the happiest I've ever been in my whole life.''

As her successful comeback continues, Krone will be sitting on three pretty strong horses Saturday at the World Thoroughbred Championships at Santa Anita.

Krone will ride Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide in the $4 million BC Classic; 7-5 favorite Halfbridled in the $1 million BC Juvenile Fillies and 12-1 choice Siphonizer in the $1.5 million BC Juvenile. Halfbridled and Siphonizer are trained by Richard Mandella.

``I'm so happy and humbled to have so many live horses after my layoff,'' Krone said. ``The Breeders' Cup people have given me another jump start.''

And so has Funny Cide's trainer Barclay Tagg.

Tagg may be based in New York, but when he needed to replace Jose Santos he reached out to California and called Krone.

``Barclay knew she'd be a really good fit,'' Tagg's assistant trainer Robin Smullen said. ``She knows how to get a horse to relax, and that's exactly what Funny Cide needs.''

Krone's return has been just short of sensational. Coming off a 3 1/2-year retirement, she finished second in the jockey standings at Del Mar's summer meeting and won nine stakes races, including the $1 million Pacific Classic aboard Candy Ride while filling in for an injured Gary Stevens.

Not only is Krone looking for her first win in the Breeders' Cup _ she's 0-for-14 _ but no female has ever won a BC race.

Firsts are nothing new for Krone. She was the first female jockey inducted into racing's Hall of Fame in 2000, the first to win a Triple Crown race _ the 1993 Belmont Stakes _ and ranks first in wins with more than 3,600.

Even though she will be riding Funny Cide for the first time, and the 3-year-old gelding will be running for the first time in nearly three months, Krone brings a home-course advantage along for the ride.

``She knows this track, and that can't hurt,'' said Dave Mahan, one of Funny Cide's owners. ``There's nothing like having a jockey that's familiar with the surface that you're racing on. And she's one of the top jocks at this place.''

Funny Cide may be 8-1, but the pairing of America's most popular horse with one of racing's most popular riders could drop the final odds.

``That's hard to tell, but anything is possible,'' said Jack Knowlton, managing partner for Sackatoga Stable, the group of 10 upstate New Yorkers that owns Funny Cide.

Medaglia d'Oro, runner-up to Volponi in last year's Classic, is the 3-1 favorite, followed by Perfect Drift at 7-2 and Ten Most Wanted at 4-1.

Just the fact Krone is riding at all is testament to her desire to stay in the sport she grew up loving so much. Krone was one of the top riders on the East Coast in the 1990s, but retired in April 1999 after several horrifying spills.

Krone tried TV and radio for a while. Not the same. Then she fell in love with Daily Racing Form columnist Jay Hovdey, moved to California, and got married.

By 2001, Krone was itching to ride again. She went to the track, exercised horses in the morning for Mandella and others, and a year later was ready to return.

Just before the 2002 Breeders' Cup, the comeback announcement came. ``Time heals all wounds,'' Krone said at the time.

Last Nov. 7, Krone returned to the winner's circle for the first time in four years after a victory aboard Jade Hunter in the eighth race at Hollywood Park.

After gaining confidence and mounts, Krone fractured her back in a spill in March and was out four more months.

Having been away from the Breeders' Cup so long, Krone can't wait to watch the international stars perform.

``This is so fun,'' she said. ``Everything is coming together, it's the cornucopia of racing. It's so much fun to see the young horses and older horses and the turf and the short and the long and the sprint is so exciting ... I even become a fan if I don't ride the race.''

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