Julie Krone accomplished just about everything a jockey could ever dream of during a career that spanned more than two decades. Since retiring in 2004, Krone has spent much of her time as a mom, raising her daughter and designing costumes for theater. Now, the Hall of Fame rider, widely considered the greatest female jockey of all time, is immersing herself fully into something new: Life as a teacher – as a jockey instructor, that is.
In partnership with Long Shadows Farm in Cambridge, N.Y. (less than an hour from Saratoga Springs), Krone is leading her first ever Junior Jockey Camp this week. Students aged 12-17 will be getting up-close access to Krone at the week-long camp (which began on Monday). Krone is serving as lead instructor and is being joined by Long Shadows Farm manager Tabitha Morgan and other personalities from around the track.
Those participating in the camp include a limited number of campers who were selected from local communities based on financial need, and on the commitment and desire expressed in written essays they submitted. We spoke to Krone about what inspired the idea, how she plans on running the camp and what she hopes the campers get out of it.
America’s Best Racing: This sounds like a really exciting week on tap for you. Not only are you able to give back to younger people through this camp, but it’s also happening in a setting like Long Shadows Farm, a facility dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating horses. What was the genesis of the idea for the camp?
Julie Krone: Well, I had been at the jockey camp that Frankie Lovato Jr. started in Ohio. I saw what he did. And then you see (Hall of Fame jockey) Chris McCarron do what he did (leading the North American Riding Academy) in Kentucky. For me, because I love horses so much and my passion is all about the psychology of the horse… and trying to be a champion athlete, I just wanted to share it. My daughter is 13 now and we home school. So, I’ve learned a lot about teaching with her home schooling. I just realized I can’t keep it inside. I have to share it.
None of this could have been possible without Frankie Lovato. He’s the one who started this camp and the one who shared it all with me. He shared his daily planners, schedules, what he did to teach the jockeys and he has this little miniature racetrack he shared with me. He also came down and brought his Equicizers (a non-motorized mechanical horse that Lovato originally invented in 1982 – it’s commonly used for jockey training and rehabilitation). When my kids start doing simulations where they get to feel what it’s like to ride races, they get to use those nice Equicizers. He brought his new models.
(Note: For more on Lovato and his educational resources, check out jockeyworld.org)
ABR: Tell us a little about some of the campers who are participating. What do you want to share with them?
JK: I’m trying to share everything that I can to get them to where they feel like they had a lot of fun at jockey camp and that they learned a lot. The essays they wrote were the sweetest things you’ve ever seen. I have every range of student you can imagine. I’d love to share everything with them.
ABR: What does the actual curriculum for a jockey camp look like?
JK: One day this week we’ll be looking at all of the different personalities that horses have and how to get along with the different personalities. Another day we’ll talk about the physical parts, diet and food… and the physicality of being a jockey. We’ll do some fun racing games.
I’m doing it systematically. They’re learning the poles, they’re learning how to get tied on, they’re learning where to go on the racetrack. I’m trying to get all of this lined up systematically so that by the time Friday comes they’re actually going to be on their racehorses, which are retired off-the-track Thoroughbreds.
ABR: Nice. You’ve mentioned a lot of people have supported the launch of this camp.
JK: When the horses come out, we have tack from (prominent trainers) Todd Pletcher, Linda Rice and Bill Mott. All of my kids are sponsored by people at the racetrack – the jockeys, owners, the racetracks themselves. I’m so excited. These kids, their energy is infectious. They’re so sweet as they are learning and they have so much passion for racing. It’s also so fun to introduce new kids to all of this. Four of them in the camp are older teenagers and they could realistically be at Saratoga in the next few years, and they can say ‘I was at Julie Krone’s Junior Jockey Camp.’ That’s just such a special thing.
ABR: Is the concept for this camp something you hope or plan to grow in coming years?
JK: Oh, yes. I would like to have four or five camps. That would be really fun.
ABR: How significant is it for you to be able to lead this camp so close to Saratoga Springs where you raced and won many big races? Also, what is your favorite Saratoga memory?
JK: Well, it was so amazing to go over to Saratoga and get the tack from the trainers (for the camp). It’s so much fun. It’s just a feeling of community. I feel so excited, as if I’ve won a race or something. As far as memories here, anytime you have multiple-win days, like the time I won five… there was a girl jockey named Georgina Frost who won two races that day too. So, we won seven of the races that day, which was really cool. And then, when I came back and rode Tale of the Cat, that was pretty exciting. I also won for H. Allen Jerkens with Classy Mirage (in the 1994 Honorable Miss Stakes). My gosh, it’s Saratoga. Even winning one race at Saratoga, it was like, ‘Oh my God, I won a race at Saratoga!’”