Kevin Krigger has never won a Triple Crown race, but he admits it's been on his bucket list since arriving in the U.S. from his native St. Croix more than a decade ago.
On May 18, he could become the first African-American jockey to win the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) since Willie Simms' victory in 1898. The only other African-American to ride to victory in the Preakness was George "Spider" Anderson, who did so in 1889.
"Basically that's just part of the history," said the soft-spoken Krigger, who will be the first African-American jockey to ride in the Preakness since Wayne Barnett finished eighth aboard Sparrowvon in 1985. "The media actually is paying more attention to it than I am because I really don't have time to worry about that. I'm focused here on getting Goldencents in the Preakness winner's circle."
Krigger could have been back home riding at Betfair Hollywood Park, but trainer Doug O'Neill asked him to stay with the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner and be aboard for all of his subsequent training for the Preakness.
Goldencents finished 17th as the third betting choice in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), which was contested over a sloppy, sealed track at Churchill Downs.
"It was one of those races where...we just had to go back to the drawing board," said Krigger, who has been aboard for all seven of Goldencents' races. "We didn't get the outcome we were looking for, but the greatest thing is the horse came back healthy and we're here getting ready for the Preakness."
Krigger said he eased up on the son of Into Mischief once he realized he was out of contention in the Derby, so he hasn't lost any confidence in him. O'Neill admitted he was impressed by the fact that Krigger did the right thing by his colt.
"Kevin's such a positive guy and such a positive rider," O'Neill said May 14 after Krigger took Goldencents out for his regular morning gallop around Pimlico Race Course. "He's been great with the horse, and we're pretty lucky to have a guy to make that kind of commitment. It just shows how dedicated he is and how passionate he is. He's a real team player."
Krigger said it wasn't a difficult decision to make the commitment to Goldencents.
"I have a lot of faith in him," Krigger said. "I've been on this horse every time, and these guys stuck with me. They kept me on this horse this far, and I would have felt bad if I was in California after they asked me to stay here... As easily as I could have ridden other horses back there, they could have had someone else on him. I'm on him because they have faith in my riding ability and we get along—not just me and the horse, but me and the entire team. They're great to work with."
Meanwhile, Krigger has become something of a local hero in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where his family still lives.
"I found out about two days before the Derby that I had a Facebook page," said the 29-year-old Preakness rookie. "I guess it was put together by my sister and my cousin, and my mother informed me that the Virgin Islands media are trying to get hold of me to do interviews. She also informed me that a lot of kids are leaving comments as far as I inspired them to follow their dreams. I don't really keep up with social media, but that made me appreciate [it]."
Only two of the past eight Derby winners have also captured the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown: Big Brown in 2008 and the O'Neill-trained I'll Have Another last year. (I'll Have Another never got his Triple Crown chance when he came up injured the day before the Belmont Stakes).
"I feel we have a good chance to win again; if we get a good trip, I think we can," said O'Neill, who also paid his respects to Derby winner Orb . "Shug's (McGaughey) a Hall of Fame trainer. (Orb) is a Triple Crown threat for sure."