Kentucky Derby jockey could end 110-year drought

Kevin Krigger and Goldencents race their way into victory at the Santa Anita Derby last March.
CBS News

(CBS News) LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When the horses get to the post at the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, one jockey will have a special incentive to win-- he'll be trying to revive a proud tradition.

Kevin Krigger is a 27-year-old jockey from St. Croix. He and his horse Goldencents hope to win the Kentucky Derby. CBS News

Churchill Downs is drenched in history and tradition. There, it's considered bad luck to boast about your chances in the derby.

But don't tell that to jockey Kevin Krigger.

"I believe in myself," he said. "And if I'm on a horse that wants to win, I'm going to win."

Krigger said he's just confident, not cocky. He credits his 3-year old horse Goldencents, a top five contender. A stirring victory in last month's Santa Anita Derby guaranteed the pair a trip to Kentucky.

"What excites me," said Krigger, "is to see when I'm done riding, and I'm done winning, the joy it brings out of the owners, the trainers, my family."

On Saturday, the 27-year-old from the island of St. Croix hopes history comes along for the ride. Asked if he knew what was at stake at the derby, Krigger said:"Of course I do. There hasn't been an African-American jockey to win it since 1902."

Kevin Krigger and Goldencents race their way into victory at the Santa Anita Derby last March. CBS News

African Americans once dominated racing -- Oliver Lewis won the first Kentucky Derby in 1875. Overall, black riders won 15 of the first 28 derbies.

"When you wanted to win, you called on these jockeys," said Emory University professor Pellom McDaniels, who is writing a book on black jockeys.

In the late 1800s, they were major stars, But when African-Americans started earning big prize money, white jockeys literally drove them out.

"Some jockeys would be whipped with the whip when they were riding down the straightaway or the turn," said McDaniels. "And in some cases, the jockeys were jostled to the point where they fell off their horses and were killed."

Krigger respects those who came before and is glad to shed light on their legacy. But he hopes this weekend's race is not about race.

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    Michelle Miller is the co-host of "CBS This Morning: Saturday." As an award-winning correspondent based in New York City, she has reported for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. She joined CBS News in 2004.