Oak Tree to Unretire Seven of the Greatest Jockeys of All-Time, and Julie Krone
Something here is not right.
Like the kids game, which of these is not like the other: Cordero, Vasquez, Hawley, Day McCarron, Bailey, Stevens, Krone.
Krone? Julie Krone? Amidst a list like that?
Yet when the Oak Tree Racing at Santa Anita meet sends out eight horses on October 18 for a special pari-mutuel wagering race, “The Living Legends Race,” those eight jockeys will be the representatives.
From all the retired legendary jockeys, the Oak Tree Racing Association picked a great cast. But I must question the selection of Julie Krone.
In case you don't recognize the names or don't remember the names, I'll go through each of the jockeys one-by-one.
Angel Cordero, Jr., 65, won more than 7000 races in his career, including six Triple Crown races.
He won both the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes aboard Bold Forbes in 1975. He also won the Kentucky Oaks twice.
He won four Breeders' Cup races in the first eight years of the event before suffering a career-ending injury in 1992, four years after his induction into the United States Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame.
Three times, in 1982, 1983, and 1985, Cordero won the Eclipse Award for most outstanding jockey.
Jacinto Vasquez, 64, is one of only 23 North American jockeys to ever win 5000 races. Among those are two Kentucky Derbies, one aboard Foolish Pleasure and a second aboard Genuine Risk.
Vasquez might have been the greatest rider of fillies in American history, guiding Ruffian and Genuine Risk for their entire careers, as well as the very-underrated Princess Rooney, winner of the first Breeders' Cup Distaff. Vasquez did not ride her in that triumph, but he did have the mount in 1983 when she won the Kentucky Oaks.
Sandy Hawley, 59, might be the greatest jockey in Canadian history, rivaled only by Don Seymour.
He won nearly 6500 races, including 10 Canadian Triple Crown races and the Canadian Oaks eight times. In fact, Hawley won the Canadian Oaks five years in a row from 1970 to 1974.
His greatest victory came in 1987 when he beat skin cancer. The following year, he won the Breeders' Stake aboard King's Deputy at Woodbine, the final Canadian Triple Crown race victory of his career.
Pat Day, 55, was one of the three most dominant jockeys of the 1990s, winning six Triple Crown and eight Breeders' Cup races during the decade. He is the only jockey to win three consecutive Preakness Stakes, having done so from 1994 to 1996.
Lifetime, Day won nine Triple Crown races and 12 Breeders' Cup races, those twelves Breeders' Cup triumphs are more than anyone except Jerry Bailey.
He won four Eclipse Awards for outstanding jockey, the last in 1991. In that same year he was inducted into the United States Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame.
Chris McCarron, 53, has won more than 7000 races, nearly achieving the Triple Crown aboard Alysheba in 1987.
He won the Breeders' Cup Classic a record-tying five times, the last two aboard Tiznow, the only two-time winner of the continent's richest race. He dominated California racing for two decades, winning the very competitive Del Mar riding title five times.
Jerry Bailey, 51, is arguably the finest jockey ever to race in the United States. At the very least, he is the best since Bill Shoemaker.
Although he only won six Triple Crown races, he dominated everything else. He won the Breeders' Cup Classic five times among 15 overall Breeders' Cup races.
Bailey also won the Dubai World Cup, the world's richest race, four times.
Most remarkably, he won the Eclipse for most outstanding jockey seven times, three more than anyone else since the award was first issued in 1971.
Finally, there is Gary Stevens, now 45.
Stevens won eight Triple Crown races, coming the closest to winning the Triple Crown in 1997 aboard Silver Charm. Stevens also won seven Breeders' Cup races.
He retired at 42, falling 112 wins shy of 5000 for his career.
He also spent the last two years of his career racing mainly in France.
Which brings us to Julie Krone.
Now, there is no doubt that Krone, now 45, was a fine jockey, one of the better ones of her era. But if she was a man, there is no way she would be in this race.
Krone won one Triple Crown race, the 1993 Belmont Stakes aboard Colonial Affair in the fog in a race marred by the fatal breakdown of Preakness Stakes winner Prairie Bayou. It still is the only Triple Crown race won by a female jockey.
Krone retired in 1999 before returning in 2002. The following year, she became the first and only female jockey to win a Breeders' Cup race, doing so aboard Halfbridled in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.
An injury late in 2003 effectively ended Krone's career.
But if you were to compare Krone to other jockeys, to Shane Sellers and Walter Blum, you'd find very similar careers. Would you really ask either Sellers or Blum to participate in this event alongside these other seven?
Of course not.
I give Oak Tree credit for setting this up; I give Oak Tree credit for convincing the other seven jockeys to unretire for a day and attempt to add one more win to their already impressive resumes. Amongst themselves, they already have 45,459 wins.
Add in Krone and they have 49,163 victories.
Add in Krone and you have a mismatch.
I love Julie Krone; what she did for the sport, what she did to cross the gender line and show that female jockeys could be more than mediocre is earth-shattering. But to put her in the same class as Cordero, Vasquez and Hawley, McCarron and Stevens, Day and Bailey, to put her in that class is just not correct.
She's a Hall of Fame jockey but not on the same level as the other seven. Putting her in this race is an insult to her.
For all she has achieved, she has earned the right to be thought of as just a jockey, to not be thought of because she is female. Putting her in this race only works to diminish that.
She'll be thought of as the token female jockey because alongside that competition, that's what she is.
Krone deserves better than this.
Oak Tree, keep her out and you do her a service. Put her in and you just belittle what she has already done.