Every day at 5:15 a.m., Kevin Krigger’s alarm clock goes off. Sometimes he hits the snooze button; sometimes he turns off the alarm, and his fiancée has to coax him out of bed. But once he does rise, he never regrets it.
Awaiting him on the backside of Santa Anita Park, as the sun rises high above the San Gabriel Mountains, is a horse lover’s wonderland. There are trainers to beg for mounts, exercise riders and grooms to greet, and lately, there have been television crews to pose for. But most of all, it is the horses that keep Krigger coming back.
One horse in particular, housed in Barn 88, has been the object of Krigger’s affection recently: his name is Goldencents, and aboard him, Krigger captured the Santa Anita Derby for his first Grade I victory and an invitation to horse racing’s grandest stage, the Kentucky Derby, on Saturday.
At that moment, it did not matter to Krigger that he was the first Black jockey to win the Santa Anita Derby in its 78-year history. Or that he was poised to become the first Black jockey to ride on the first Saturday of May since 2000. Or, bigger still, that he had a speedy and sturdy horse under his 5-foot-6, 110-pound frame, one that has a solid shot of making him the first Black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby since Jimmy Winkfield won two straight, in 1901 and 1902.