When the starting pistol fires May 4 for the 139th Kentucky Derby, not one but two native Virgin Islanders will be in the saddle, spurring their steeds out of the gate and hoping to bring home the trophy.
On April 6, St. Croix jockey Kevin Krigger was the first black jockey and first native Virgin Islander to win the Santa Anita Derby – and became the first Virgin Islander to win a slot at the Kentucky Derby.
Then on Saturday, Victor Lebron, a St. Croix native of Hispanic descent, won the Arkansas Derby, garnering a second spot for a Virgin Islander at the world’s most famous annual horse race.
Krigger will ride Goldencents at the derby and is ranked no. 2 among race contenders. Lebron will be on Frak Attack and is ranked no. 28.
Right after Krigger’s win, Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen gave a short tribute to the jockey during one-minute comments on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Gov. John deJongh Jr. issued a statement celebrating the landmark and commending Krigger.
“All Virgin Islanders join me in congratulating this son of our soil and Central High School graduate on his outstanding performance with Goldencents during Saturday’s derby,” deJongh said last week. “We are excited about the potential for Kevin to become the first African American jockey to win the Kentucky Derby in over 100 years.”
In the early days of the race, in the 1880s and 1890s, black jockeys were prominent in horse racing and won the Kentucky Derby several times. Jimmy "Wink" Winkfield was the last black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby, racking up consecutive wins in 1901 and 1902.
In his statement, deJongh said it is clear that Krigger possesses a love of horses and an undeniable passion for horse racing, the sport of kings. “I heard an interview he did before the race and it was clear that all eyes were on him but that he remained focused on the race and is now looking ahead to the Kentucky Derby," deJongh said.
With Lebron’s win Saturday sending a historical second V.I. rider to the derby, deJongh said it was "an honor" to acknowledge both jockeys "and the tremendous exposure they have brought the territory."
"History is being made in the Virgin Islands: Krigger being the first black and native Virgin Islander to win the coveted Santa Anita Derby and Victor Lebron, a Virgin Islander of Hispanic descent who finished second in the Arkansas Derby and is now qualified for the Kentucky Derby based on accumulated points," deJongh said, urging everyone to follow the race and cheer for the two hometown heroes.