(from Del Mar reports)
Happy, cheerful Julie Krone may never match the intensity of Patrick Valenzuela, but as the Sept. 7 "Battle of the Sexes" match race between Del Mar's leading riders draws closer, the bubbly Krone doesn't need to convince anyone of her winning desire.Through Aug. 31, Valenzuela leads Krone, 41-35 in the Del Mar jockey standings. If nothing else the match race, a $200,000 claiming affair carrying a total purse of $50,000, could move the only female Hall of Fame rider one victory closer to the leader. Valenzuela and Krone, both 40, have been in a battle all summer for top honors among riders at the meet. Match races are nothing new to Krone, and she is taking a breezy attitude toward this one. She's been in three before, successful against Bill Shoemaker and Jorge Velasquez, while losing to Gary Stevens. Stevens, in fact, was scheduled to be her foe at Del Mar this time, but his injury in the Arlington Million landed Valenzuela in his spot.Valenzuela says he hasn't had much match race experience."I haven't been in a match since I was a 15-year-old kid getting ready to ride in the washes of Santa Fe (N.M.)," he said. "I don't think I've ever been in a legalized match race."I think it's just another race," Valenzuela added. "I just have only one opponent to beat. To me, it's just another race I'm going to try to go out and win."As for the meet-long battle with Krone, Valenzuela said, "I don't find riding against Julie is any different from riding against any other rider. Every rider in this room has tons of ability. I just go out there and do my best to win a race."And the Montrose, Colo., native won't be drawn into "Battle of the Sexes" debate. "I just think it's a battle of two horsemen riding two horses," he said. "I think Julie's very capable of winning lots of races and very capable of beating any guy rider out there, so I think I'm up against a very good rider."For Krone's part, she said of Valenzuela: "He's very competitive and very consistent." The two horses for the race are Oopstheregoes, owned by James McIngvale and trained by Bob Baffert, and Chester's Choice, owned by Robert Rupert and trained by Summer Mayberry. Each is a 3-year-old colt that won its first race in its last start. Oopstheregoes has run four times in his career, Chester's Choice 10.The jockeys will be assigned a mount through a blind draw on Thursday in a ceremony in the Del Mar paddock/walking ring at 11:45 a.m. Both riders will be in attendance for the event.
The race will be the fourth on the day's 10-race card. It will be a betting race with win wagering only. It will be part of daily doubles, Pick 3s and the Place Pick All. That got Krone thinking about what might be a special circumstance."It would be kind of unique and fun if I'd get Summer's horse." She was talking about Chester's Choice, trained by fourth-generation horseman Mayberry. "You know," she said, "girl-girl against boy-boy."A boy-boy combination would put Valenzuela aboard the Bob Baffert-trained Oopstheregoes. The use of a blind draw is fine to both riders. "I think it's going to be really fun," Krone said. "I hope the horses are really well-matched because it makes it exciting for the crowd. I think it's fun for the people. It's a big show. That's the most important thing."Valenzuela, as intense as ever, said, "Whenever I ride a race I ride to win, no matter what horse it is. No matter what his odds are, no matter what his form is, I go out there thinking I'm going to win."