If you ask the 29-year-old jockey who is going to win the Kentucky Derby, he’ll gladly tell you it will be Goldencents, the horse he’ll be riding on the first Saturday in May.
Krigger rode Goldencents to victory in the April 6 Santa Anita Derby, becoming the first African-American jockey to win that race in its 76-year history. If he wins the May 4 Kentucky Derby, he would become the first black jockey to win the Derby since 1902, when Jimmy Winkfield rode the second of his back-to-back winners, His Eminence and then Alan-a-Dale.
“It’s sad,” Krigger says of the drought, especially considering that black jockeys once dominated the Derby, winning 15 of the first 28 Derby’s run from 1875-1902. “But I’m ready to be the first since then. No doubt about it, I’m going to be part of history.”
Racism and the introduction of Jim Crow laws ran black riders out of racetracks. Even Churchill Downs, where the Derby will be held for the 139th time this Saturday, was completely segregated through the 1950s.
Today, African-American jockeys are still hard to find in any riding colony throughout the country.
“Being African-American is a rarity in horse racing but I don’t feel that’s an excuse,” says Krigger, a father of four. “It’s about working harder and I’m going to work harder than anyone. If African-Americans dominated the sport, I’d be the African-American that works the hardest. I base my success on working hard. If I used that excuse, I’m limiting myself. I have no limits to reach my goals.”
“He’s got a very good work ethic and never complains about any horse,” says Krigger’s 65-year-old agent agent Tom Knust, who has worked for Kent Desormeaux and Pat Valenzuela. “He knows he’s a jockey and that’s what he gets paid for. Every day, six days a week he never misses a morning. Sometimes maybe he gets a Tuesday off but that’s it.”
Krigger, who stands 5-6, is just the second black jockey to compete in the Derby since 1921, and the first since Marlon St. Julien rode Curule to a seventh-place finish in the 2000 Derby.