Gregory Payan/AP
Kathy Ehrich Dowd
May 04, 2013 12:00 PM

Kevin Krigger will make history simply by mounting Goldencents at the Kentucky Derby 2013 – not that he’s focused on all that.

“My Derby dream is not, I’m going to be the first African-American to win the Derby since 1902. My Derby dream is, I’m going to win the Kentucky Derby,” he said, according to The New York Times.

Krigger, 29, is only the second black jockey to ride in the Derby since 1921, according to Sports Illustrated, and if he wins he will be the first black jockey to earn the trophy at Churchill Downs in more than a century.

Jimmy Winkfield won two straight Derbys in 1901 and 1902, and in 2000 Marlon St. Julien became the first black jockey to race in 79 years, reports the Times.

The 5’6,” 110-pound jockey – one of the tallest in the diminutive sport – fell in love with horses as a child growing up in St. Croix, the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, sneaking out of the house to ride with his sister by age 5.

“Most of the time, if I needed to go anyplace, I opted for a horse,” Krigger, a father of four, told the Times. “It was something that I found second nature.”

Gregory Payan/AP

He moved to the US in 2001 at 17 to pursue jockeying full-time, but struggled for many years before hitting his stride again in 2011 at Emerald Downs near Seattle.

“My confidence as a rider never decreased because at any point when I was not doing well, I always waited for a horse to show up,” he said of his never-give-up attitude.

Eventually, the right horse did show up. He rode Goldencents to victory at the Santa Anita Derby, and earned a coveted spot in the Kentucky Derby.

Despite his challenges, including temporarily housing his family in a hotel and a trailer while he pursued his dream, he is humble about his road to success and its challenges.

“I always say, there’s always someone that has it harder than you,” he said. “So my journey wasn’t that hard. It could have been worse. Let’s just put it that way: my career led me to this point.”

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