This was California's version of fall foliage, the skies turning
violent hues, weird sunlight refracted through the smoke and
smog. Even at Santa Anita, where 51,648 crowded in last Saturday
to watch and bet the Breeders' Cup, and which was presumably safe
from Southland conflagrations to the east and west, the air was
turning yellow and then brown. See: a change of seasons.

Julie Krone, one of those transplanted Easterners who make up so
much of California, appreciated the effect and, finding a
nostalgic comfort where she could, raced through the autumnal
haze and added the West Coast to her little trophy case.

Not that she'd been having trouble winning here. Since resuming
her career in California after a three-year retirement from
mostly East Coast racing, Krone has shaken off initial comeback
doubts, serious injury and the wariness of her West Coast
brethren (she has no sistern; she remains the lone notable female
rider coast to coast) to establish her considerable reputation
anew. She very nearly won the racing title at Del Mar earlier
this season, even after fracturing vertebrae on March 8. But a
Breeders' Cup win ... well. As she squeaked into Halfbridled's
ear at the final turn, the filly a little too complacent for
Krone's money, "No, no, no! This is very serious!"

Krone and Halfbridled's victory in the $1 million Juvenile
Fillies, part of that all-you-can-eat thoroughbred smorgasbord
that caps the racing season each year, may not have settled the
Horse of the Year debate. The $4 million Classic later in the day
was supposed to do that. (It didn't; favorite Medaglia d'Oro got
passed by the 15-1 Pleasantly Perfect, finishing a day bursting
with long-shot victories.) But Krone's first Breeders' Cup win,
the first for any female jockey, provided the day's sweetest
story. "I know, I know," she said, lingering in the dirt tunnel
after her race. "I read it was supposed to be sweet enough to
make the teeth fall right out of your head."

The 40-year-old Krone had retired in 1999 after she suffered a
substantial loss of confidence following a bone-pulverizing
spill. Since coming west, she has gotten better mounts than she
ever used to be offered. (On Saturday she was aboard Derby and
Preakness winner Funny Cide in the Classic.) But she wasn't
buying into one of those Lifetime dramas in which the little girl
perseveres, suffers some more and wins. "Maybe if I could step
back," she said, "I could see it. But I don't, not now." (She
had, however, already gotten her man; marriage to Daily Racing
Form columnist Jay Hovdey was the reason for her move west.)

In her first life Krone was good enough to win a Belmont and make
the Hall of Fame. This time around she has reminded everybody of
her skills. "She really is a Hall of Fame jockey," marveled
Halfbridled's trainer, Richard Mandella (winner of four Cup races
on Saturday), after she steered the favorite from the far outside
post to easy victory.

But Krone also set new standards for passion. Last Friday "it was
hot and smoky," she said, "and after 14 hours I wasn't even in
the money." She might have been discouraged once, but now she is
unshakable in her optimism, in her joy of riding. Because, she
said, she just knew she'd win that Breeders' Cup.

TWO COLOR PHOTOS: BILL FRAKES By urging Halfbridled to run full out, Krone (white cap) overtookJerry Bailey on Victory U.S.A. (green).