He’s not necessarily a reluctant hero, just more of a humble one.
On Saturday, Kevin Krigger will become only the seventh black jockey to ride in 138 Preakness Stakes, and the first since 1985. Should he win, he would be only the third, and the first in 115 years.
Krigger, 29, has his own Facebook fan page, with 3,499 ‘likes’ and counting. Created by family members back home on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, he has never even seen it.
There are messages upon messages upon messages waiting for the intelligent, soft-spoken Krigger, a regular on the California circuit who finished 17th in the Kentucky Derby on the Doug O’Neill-trained Goldencents, who went off as the third betting choice in a field of 19.
Among the many:
“I found out two days prior to the Derby that I had a Facebook page,” Krigger said this morning after galloping Goldencents over the main track at Pimlico. “I guess it was put together by my sister and my cousin. Yesterday, my mother informed me that the Virgin Islands media is trying to get hold of me to do interviews, and a lot of the kids are leaving comments, as far as I inspire them to follow my dreams. That made me appreciate my page for the first time.
“I don’t ever really keep up with the social net. I really don’t. I’ve never actually seen the page myself. I just heard fro my mother the comments that the kids are leaving, and I guess they inspire me to continue to do good.”
Krigger temporarily put his West Coast business on hold to stay with Goldencents, going directly from Louisville, Ky. to Baltimore following the Derby with the rest of Team O’Neill.
In all seven of his starts, from his debut win last September, victories in the Delta Jackpot (G3), Sham (G3) and Santa Anita Derby (G1), and losses in the Champagne (G1), San Felipe (G2) and Kentucky Derby, Krigger has been aboard.
“I would have felt bad if they asked me to say here and I refused, to worry about other horses,” he said. “As easily as I would have worried about other horses, someone else could have easily been on this horse. It’s not something I’m just doing for myself. I’m doing it because these guys are sticking with me, and they’re a great team to work with.”
Krigger faced all the “opportunity to make history” questions at Churchill Downs, and expects he’ll get them again here. The answer will be the same.
“That’s just part of the history. The media is actually paying more attention to it than I am,” he said. “I don’t really have time to worry about most of that. I’m here, focused on getting Goldencents in the Preakness winner’s circle. That’s all of our goal, you know?”
At the same time, Krigger doesn’t shy away from his status as a positive role model, and feels a certain sense of loyalty to his growing fan base, drawing on his own experiences as a young boy visiting the track.
“If that’s what it takes for more kids to get inspired, I mean, they’re my inspiration right now,” he said. ‘I remember when I was a kid and I used to go up to the racetrack fence. I would say, ‘Hey!” to a hockey, and they would look at me and respond. It always made me feel good.
“Myself, as a rider right now … the majority of the kids that I can hear calling my name I always look and show them a bit of recognition, so they can have that feeling I used to feel when a rider would show me recognition, too, you know?
“I enjoy being an inspiration.”