Krigger focused on Derby after Santa Anita win

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ST. THOMAS ­- St. Croix's own Kevin Krigger now has his eyes on the Kentucky Derby after riding Goldencents to victory in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on Saturday

"I feel good," said an ecstatic Krigger, who earned $45,000 for the winning ride. "Finally I can say that I'm on my way to the Derby."

Krigger, 29, made history as the first black jockey to win the Santa Anita Derby, and he has a chance to become the first black jockey in 111 years to win the Kentucky Derby since Jimmy Winkfield did it in 1902.

Krigger guided Goldencents over the 1⅛-mile race in 1 minute and 48.76 seconds, and paid $15, $5.40 and $3.40 at 6-1 odds. The 3-year-old bay colt is trained by Doug O'Neill and partly owned by Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, who is on a lucky streak. Pitino was named to the NCAA Hall of Fame, his team won the NCAA Championship and his horse has become a genuine prospect for horse racing's Triple Crown.

In the Santa Anita, Goldencents left no doubt about his qualifications, with the help of his jockey. Chasing pacesetter Super Ninety Nine for most of the race, Krigger took Goldencents to the lead by swinging him to the outside on the final turn with enough stamina left to easily overcome a charge from Flashback in the final stretch.

"It really made it look bad for Flashback when I kind of wasn't really pushing that hard and was just coasting," said Krigger. Flashback was the favorite in the race, and Krigger was quick to praise him. "That's a horse that I expect to get better. Not too many horses can carry speed like he does."

The Grade I Stakes Santa Anita Derby saw a much more patient Goldencents after O'Neill worked with him following last month's San Felipe Derby, when Goldencents was baited into a suicidal pace by Flashback and finished fourth.

The difference in the outcome of the two races also demonstrated the talent that has brought Krigger to the top level of thoroughbred racing, but he was modest, about the victory.

"It was basically between me and the horse, being relaxed," he said. "That was the key factor in the run."

Krigger is hoping that his win at Santa Anita will help bring in more Virgin Islands sponsors, both for himself and for the other three major jockeys from the territory - Julio Felix, Kerwin John and Victor Lebron, who have all had a tough time finding local backers.

"I think this would be a good time for them to endorse the four of us" Krigger said.

Racing fans are paying attention to Virgin Islands talent.

"Wherever we go, they ask where we're from, and we tell them, 'the Virgin Islands,' " he said. "We've had a lot of people that have met us that made it to the Virgin Islands just because they met us."

Sponsorship issues aside, Krigger knows just how momentous his win is for the Virgin Islands as a whole; his friends and family have been sure to tell him so.

"My phone doesn't stop ringing," he said, laughing. "The entire Virgin Islands was cheering me on this weekend, and I want to finish up and capitalize by bringing home the Derby trophy to the Virgin Islands."

In the next three weeks, Krigger won't get much time to spend at home with his fiance, Taisha Mintas, and their four children. The Derby is May 4 at Churchill Downs.

The 5-foot-6, 115 pound Krigger lives in California, where O'Neill is based. O'Neill is the trainer for whom Krigger primarily rides.

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