Five years after riding her last race in New York, Julie Krone – the most successful female jockey of all time – returns to the Big Apple on Saturday to pilot Team Valor Stables' Banyu Dewi in the $150,000 Long Island Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Aqueduct turf.
The feature for fillies and mares is contested at 1 1/2 miles.
"We think we've got a good shot to win this race and we wanted the best rider we could find," Team Valor president Barry Irwin said of his decision to employ the 40-year-old Hall of Famer. "We wanted someone who would fit the horse well because she's a tough filly to ride. We envisioned Julie because she's not big and neither is the horse. She's a great horsewomen and we have tremendous confidence in her getting the filly to relax."
Banyu Dewi has made three starts in this country with one win, a second-level allowance at Saratoga in August. Last month at Belmont, the German-bred filly finished a nose short to Love n' Kiss S. going 1 1/8 miles. The Long Island will be the longest race of the filly's career. She finished fourth going 10 furlongs two years ago in France behind males Ballingarry and Castle Gondolfo.
Krone last rode in a race in New York at Aqueduct on Nov. 6, 1998 when she finished fifth aboard Royal Ensign in a $20,000 claiming race. Her last local victory was Oct. 30, 1998, on Comic Prospect.
She announced her retirement in April 1999. But late in 2002, Krone, the only female jockey to win a Triple Crown race (Colonial Affair in the 1993 Belmont) launched her riding comeback in California.
California has been good to her as well. She was a close second in the jockey standings at the Del Mar summer meet. Last month, she won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Santa Anita aboard Halfbridled to become the first woman to win a Breeders' Cup flat race.
Banyu Dewi and Krone face a tough group in the Long Island, including 120-pound highweight Volga, who comes off a victory in Woodbine's E.P. Taylor (Can-I).
Volga, owned by Joseph Allen, was making her first start for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and her new conditioner was impressed by her determination to prevail by a head.
"To win by a head in a four-horse photo was great," McLaughlin said. "Everything went right for her that day. It was a big effort, but I don't think it took too much out of her."
The Woodbine course was listed as soft for the E.P. Taylor, but McLaughlin said he is not sure that type of course is best for the 5-year-old mare.
Denlea Park Stable's Spice Island has strung together a solid 2003 campaign on turf. From seven starts on grass, the Tabasco Cat filly has three wins, three seconds and a third. She comes off a dominating performance in Keeneland's Dowager, winning the 1 ½-mile stakes by 6 ¼ lengths.
Trainer Christophe Clement has entered a pair for the Long Island in Waterville Lake Stable's Mariensky and Jon Kelly's Meridiana.
Mariensky showed an affinity for soft turf at Belmont this spring when she won two stakes races in one week, the Sheepshead Bay (gr. IIT) at1 3/8 mile, and the one-mile Just A Game (gr. IIIT). She has not been effective over firm ground since, failing to hit the board in two starts over the summer.
Three-year-old German-bred filly Meridiana, who won the Italian Oaks this spring, has not fared well in two runs in America. She was eighth in the American Oaks and then 10th against males in the Sword Dancer (gr. IT). She will be making her first start for Clement Saturday.
Robert and Lawana Low's Primetimevalentine has the potential to pull off an upset in the Long Island. She finished sixth behind a better group of horses in the Flower Bowl Invitational (gr. IT) and will be seeking her fourth win this year when she goes to the post Saturday.
European runners have done quite well in this race over the last four years. In 2000, the Gary Tanaka-owned German-bred 3-year-old filly Moonlady scored at 12-1 when the race was taken off the turf. Last year Uriah, a German-bred 3-year-old owned by Tanaka, triumphed at 8-1.
This year's 3-year-old German-bred filly owned by Tanaka is Mandela, who finished sixth behind Mezzo Soprano and Yesterday in the Prix Vermeille at Longchamp in September. Mandela will be coupled with American-based Boana in the Long Island.
Also in from Europe is Shadwell Stable's Itnab, a winner in three of four starts in England this year. She won the group III Princess Royal Stakes at Ascot in October.$150,000 Long Island Handicap (gr. IIT), fillies & mares 3 & up, 1 1/2 miles on turf
PP. HORSE, TRAINER, JOCKEY, WGT.
1. Meridiana, Christophe Clement, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 113
2a. Mandela, Ralf Suerland, Jose Espinoza, 113
3. Primetimevalentine, Danny Peitz, Aaron Gryder, 115
4. Mariensky, Christophe Clement, Javier Castellano, 116
5a. Boana, Steve Asmussen, Ariel Smith, 112
6. D'ohana, Mark Hennig, Heberto Castillo Jr., 112
7. Itnab, Ben Hanbury, Richard Hills, 117
8. Spice Island, John Pregman Jr., Victor Carrero, 117
9. Approach, H. Graham Motion, Shaun Bridgmohan, 113
10. Banyu Dewi, Michael Matz, Julie Krone, 114
11. Volga, Kiaran McLaughlin, Richard Migliore, 120
12. Lady of the Future, Tom Greene, Oliver Castillo, 114