Kevin Krigger walked the shed row this morning at Pimlico, wearing sunglasses and leading Goldencents, the 17th finisher at the Kentucky Derby, around Barn D.
The colt had arrived at 1:30 in the morning, a few hours later than planned, on a van from New York, where he had flown earlier in the day from Louisville. Two of trainer Doug O'Neill's assistants -- Jack Sisterson and Tyler Cerin -- drove from Kentucky and were here to meet the horse.
That was all planned. Krigger's presence came as a surprise. For a jockey with a hot hand -- and serious national media coverage over the last couple of weeks -- to step away from competing is highly unusual.
"I just pray to God that the trainers in California won't be too pissed at me," Krigger said.
The 29-year-old native of the Virgin Islands was asked by O'Neill to go to Baltimore and ride Goldencents into the race, instead of having an exercise rider do that work.
Krigger -- whose ride on Goldencents in the Derby has been criticized, but not by O'Neill's camp -- says he hasn't lost "a drip of confidence" in the Santa Anita Derby winner and called it an honor to be able to help push him into the May 18 Preakness Stakes.
O'Neill swept into Baltimore with the Derby winner, I'll Have Another, on the Monday after the race last year and opted to follow the same path. Sisterson said the plan for training Goldencents, who O'Neill said "just didn't fire" in the Derby, will not be tweaked. He's not scheduled to go to the track at Pimlico, which is narrow and produces tight turns, until Friday.
"His energy level is high, he ate everything up," Sisterson said. "We'll just get him back on his routine. The Derby just wasn't his race. We think he'll come back."
Krigger had Goldencents near the lead of a Derby that most thought lacked high-end speed. The new point system used to determine Derby starters eliminated true sprinters from running, but Palace Malice, under another California rider, Mike Smith, set a fast pace that would eventually allow late-running Orb to go from 17th to first over the last half mile.
No horse retreated as quickly as Goldencents, as Krigger appeared to pull the colt up when he realized the races was out of reach.
"I said last week, whenever people say there's not much speed, it always turns out you have jockeys or trainers who think differently and go to the lead," Krigger said.
O'Neill will arrive from his California base on Sunday.
He became a popular figure in Baltimore last year, throwing out the first pitch at an Orioles game and visiting local hospitals and rec centers. He and his large crew stayed over on Boston Street, tried to figure out how to eat steamed crabs and tasted their share of Bohs.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun