Julie Krone 2003 Pacific Classic Champion

Del Mar is gearing up for its most prestigious thoroughbred race of the season: the Pacific Classic. Famous racing horses from around the country will compete in San Diego County for a chance at the $1 million purse and free entry into the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. 


The first Pacific Classic took place in 1991, and has since gained popularity and grown into a Grade I race, the highest rating a race can receive based on prize money and horse status. It’s presented by the most popular online, cable, and satellite horse betting business, Television Games Network (TVG). Jockeys race a 1.25-mile dirt track for the purse and shot at the championships.


The winner receives an automatic “Win and You’re In” spot in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. The Pacific Classic is just one race of the Breeders’ Cup series awarding free entry to the winner. Otherwise, world-wide competitors must pay the pre-entry fees equal to 1% of the purse. This year’s Grade I championship race will be held Nov. 1-2 at Santa Anita Race Track in Arcadia, California.


Perhaps the most significant Pacific Classic, which is still talked about today, is the 2003 Julie Krone victory with Candy Ride, the 4-year-old Argentinean stallion originally scheduled to be ridden by Gary Stevens. However, when Stevens suffered an injury shortly before race day, horse owners Sid and Jenny Craig chose Krone. They made history that day by recovering from an unsteady start and winning in a record track time. Candy Ride over took the undefeated Medaglia d’Oro (2nd) near the eighth pole for the finish line in 1:59.11. 


I spoke with Julie about this historical day and to learn what she’s up to now. Krone still remembers meeting Candy Ride before the 2003 race day. During our conversation she mentioned, “He [Candy Ride] was so easy to ride and such a beautiful horse. I wasn’t worried at all.”


“There’s different mentalities and horse personalities, but if you want to be a successful jockey you teach yourself to be a master of all the personalities. Some horse traits may not be as fun, like if a horse is prancing around and has trouble standing still in the starting gate. You have to help them, and it makes your job a little more complicated. If you want to be a champion jockey you help the horse to be the very best it can be no matter what the personality,” she instructed.


At the 2003 Pacific Classic Julie and Candy Ride set a record time that is still upheld today. 


“That’s pretty cool. Those are just flat out bragging rights! Like ‘oh yeah, aha, that’s me,’” she joked. “He was a really fast, beautiful horse and it was a really fun day.”


When I asked if she’d like someone to break the record, Julie responded with humble humility.


She said, “I don’t really care. I don’t have thoughts about stuff you can’t control. It’s fun to have it [the record] for a while, and then if somebody breaks it be like, ‘oh well, he broke Candy Ride’s record.’”


Among being the first woman to be inducted into the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame, National Women’s Hall of Fame, and win a Triple Crown event, Krone was also the first woman to champion a Pacific Classic. When all this was happening, she was just doing what she loved: racing.


Julie commented, “I was in the industry for 20-some years. People didn’t treat me as the first girl to do things, I was a jockey doing my job… Sometimes I think ‘oh maybe I could inspire someone!’ But racing is an individual sport, so they’re still going to have to tote their own line and be the one that is talented and dedicated to the job.


“Maybe someone would say, ‘well girls can do it because Julie Krone did it.’ But they still individually have to bring something to the game,” she answered.


Throughout the early days of her career, Julie received encouragement that left a motivating impression. As an apprentice at Tampa Bay Downs, Julie remembers a specific mentoring interaction.


“One time this jockey, Dave Penna, in Florida had taken me out of the jockeys room in the morning when the racetrack [Tampa Bay Downs] was empty with no one on it,” she recalled. “He took me all the way out to the inside rail, and I thought, what is he doing? Why are we walking along the track? He said, ‘here I want you to meet somebody. This is the inside rail. Your object is to stay close to it.’ First of all, this was very very funny. Dave was always kind of funny, and it was also him taking the time to help me be a better jockey. I had a lot of help from a lot of people along the way.”


To aspiring jockeys, Julie advises that horsemanship is very important and to treat yourself well. This is a sport with many early mornings and hard work, so eat well and bring a lot of passion each day.


“If they want to do it you’re not going to talk them out of it, and if they don’t want to do it you’re not going to talk them into it,” she cautioned.


At this point in life, Julie doesn’t know what legacy she wants to leave or how she should be remembered. “I don’t know,” she sighed. “I’m just not ready to leave a legacy yet.”


Since her retirement 15 years ago, Julie is well known for her success as a champion jockey and being the first female in the sport with so many accomplishments. She continues to work with horses today in philanthropic efforts within the industry.


In San Diego County, she will be talked about longtime for her historical victory at the 2003 Pacific Classic. The TVG Pacific Classic this summer is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 17 at the Del Mar Racetrack.