Jockeys are some of the most overlooked athletes in sports. After all, it’s hard to stand out with teammates sporting names like I’ll Have Another, Mind That Bird and Seattle Slew. But while every running of the Kentucky Derby is assured a place in the history books, this year, there’s one jockey who could steal the show.
Kevin Krigger is a 29-year-old derby rookie and the rider of Goldencents — a favorite in this year’s race. In many ways, he’s the most obscure part of the thoroughbred’s impressive entourage, which includes Doug O’Neill, trainer of last year’s winner I’ll Have Another, as well as recent NCAA Basketball championship-winning coach Rick Pitino, who holds a 5% stake in the horse. As a native of St. Croix, though, Krigger will share the honor of being the first Virgin Islander to compete in the race. More importantly to some, he’s also the first black jockey to compete in the event since 2000 — and he has a chance to be the first black rider to win the Derby since 1902.
You won’t find the weight of cultural and racial precedents sitting as a chip on Krigger’s petite shoulders, though. He’s focused on the race, not his race. As he said to the Boston Globe, “I want to win the Derby because that’s something that I want to do. Being African-American is just a part of it.”
The inspiring Jockey was kind enough to chat with us about representing St. Croix, family and his relationship with Goldencents amidst his packed Derby media schedule. Check out our entire conversation below.
Q. What’s one thing every man should know?
How to love a woman.
Q. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
I stayed alive after fracturing my neck.
Q. What are you working on right now?
Preparing to ride Goldencents in the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby.
It is the best relationship I’ve had with a horse. When I arrive in the morning to see him, he’s happy to see me, and me him.
Q. Name one thing you can’t live without.
Q: Who or what influences you?
I am the biggest influence on myself.
Q. What are you reading right now?
I have no time to read anything in between interviews and preparing to ride Goldencents in the Derby.
Q. If you could go back and tell your 16 year old self something, what would you say?
Keep working hard and trying and in 13 years you will be riding in the Kentucky Derby.
Q. How do you want to be remembered?
As an honest, friendly and loyal person to my family and friends.
Q. How’s it feel to be in the Derby this year, particularly as the first Virgin Islander?
Actually, I am sharing the honor with my fellow countryman, Victor Lebron (jockey aboard Frac Daddy) so it’s kind of cool that there are two of us representing St. Croix.
Q. How is the Derby from a Jockey’s point of view? Obviously the stakes and scrutiny are high, but is there anything specific you have to prepare for?
I prepare for my all of my races in the exact same way.
Q. Do you have any kind of rituals before you race?
I get loosened up and warmed up, that’s all.
Q. What will you be doing the night before the race?
I have no idea — I won’t know until the night before the race.
Q. What’s your relationship with Goldencents like?
It’s the best relationship I’ve had with a horse. When I arrive in the morning to see him, he’s happy to see me, and me him.
Q. What’s your favorite track?
Q. What’s the environment like with other jockey’s in the race? Are you guys cracking jokes before and talking? Or quiet and focused?
Jockeys are always cracking jokes and talking.
Q. If you win, how do you plan on celebrating?
I’m spontaneous. I don’t plan things like that.
This interview was made possible by the team at America’s Best Racing, The best online resource for all things horse racing.