June 28, 2012
By KENNETH MILLER
LA Watts Times Correspondent
It’s the first Saturday of summer on the backstretch of Betfair Hollywood Park race track and just as the sun rises so too does the horses, trainers, grooms, exercise riders and jockeys, but there is one person who stands out in the crowd.
Kevin Krigger leaps from his black Dodge Durango with his green helmet, jockey boots, wearing a pair of blue jeans with a whip in his hand.
Down the dirt dust road he casually walks toward the barn with his agent, Vietnam veteran Tom Knust to discuss the workload for the morning.
The morning began at 7:30 and his first exercise mount is at eight and some six or seven mounts later he’s off to the jockey room for the first of two mounts he will have on the day’s racing card.
It is a routine that Krigger is all too familiar with as he competes for mounts on the most competitive circuit in America.
“From top to bottom this is the toughest level of competition there is,” explained Knust, who is a former racing secretary at Santa Anita Park.
So, for any jockey to earn mounts and sustain success is a rarity, but for a Black jockey as Krigger is makes for giant headlines in a sport that was once dominated by Blacks but is now almost void of them.
Marlon St. Julian of Louisiana became the first Black jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby in nearly 80 years when he rode 50-1 shot Curule in the 2001 Derby.
Krigger came oh so close to riding 2012 Derby and Preakness winner ‘I’ll Have Another’ but the mount went to Mario Gutierrez instead, although Krigger had worked the horse for trainer Doug O’Neal.
“That would have been great if that was to happen, but I didn’t get the assignment so I just keep on working. My time will come,” said Krigger.
Born in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Island, Krigger has being riding for more than a decade, earning the respect of trainers and winning races at such small tracks as Thistledown in Ohio, Mountaineer Park in Chester West Virginia and then began to really raise eyebrows when he moved west to Golden Gate Fields in Northern California.
The soft-spoken and determined Krigger has career earnings of $14,456,725 from 6,196 mounts including 880 first place finishes, 899 second place finishes and 872 third place finishes.
During the current year which also includes his mounts at Betfair Hollywood Park in Inglewood, he’s rode 344 horses, won 41 races, second 35 times, third 57 times and earnings of $1,566,059.
Jockey’s earn percentages of purses that range from 10 for first, five for second, and three for third and so on. They also earn a meager $67-70 for each horse they ride, but 25 percent of their earnings go to agent fees.
It is a brutal business to say the least, not discounting that every mount could be your last. Horse’s breakdown, jockey make mistakes, but in the glamour of the sport fans and consumed bettors are only concern with winning.
Krigger understands that. The 28-year old has four children with his girlfriend Taisha, Kiki (11), Kunzai (5), Kevin Jr. (6) and Kynaira (2).
It should not be lost on you that all of his children initials are the same as his “KK” and their names are engraved onto the red leather saddle that rides on his many mounts.
He is not just happy to be along for the rides, but wants to become a dominant figure at the racetrack.
“I feel that I am the best jockey, but I am not always on the best horse,” he stated. In this business the best horses usually go to the jockey with the best reputation, talent or relationships.
Krigger has the talent and he is winning enough to gain a reputation as a capable jockey who can be trusted with a million dollar race- horse. Knust is adding the ingredient of developing the relationships.
“This (Betfair Hollywood Park) meeting has been slow, but I think he will have a big meeting at Del Mar and will be competing for meet titles for years to come,” added Knust.
For now, Krigger will make the most of his infrequent mounts in Inglewood, but he is expected to be prominent at Fairplex in Pomona although the big name jockeys by pass the bull ring.
“I just want to ride. I love riding horses and it is all that I ever wanted to do. If I wasn’t doing this I would be singing Reggae music,” Krigger concluded.
In a sport where Blacks rode 13 of the 15 horses in the first Kentucky Derby in 1875 to only disappear by 1921, Kevin Krigger is a vivid reminder of the good old days and living proof that Blacks can do more than just dominate in basketball, football and baseball. They can ride horses too, and for that we just want Kevin to Ride — KEVIN — Ride!