Despite competition from the opening of St. Thomas’s Carnival Village on Friday night, a small but enthusiastic crowd of sports fans turned out for the premiere of WTJX’s documentary "The Dream: The Road to the Kentucky Derby" at the Win Mill sports bar at Crown Bay Marina. The documentary tells the story of the two Virgin Islands jockeys, Kevin Krigger and Victor Lebron, and one Virgin Islands assistant trainer, Gareem Nicholas, whose talents propelled them to the most competitive event in horse racing in 2013.
Although Krigger, Lebron and Nicholas were the first Virgin Islanders to participate in the Kentucky Derby, WTJX’s documentary makes clear that the organized sport of horse racing has roots in the territory that go back to the 19th century. WTJX-TV Chief Executive Officer Tanya-Marie Singh said that the continuing popularity of the sport in the Virgin Islands made the prospect of producing a local documentary about V.I. jockeys racing at Churchill Downs exciting.
"We are very active in covering horse racing on St. Thomas and St. Croix," she said. "When Krigger and Lebron went to the Kentucky Derby in 2013, we knew we wanted to do something about it."
"The Dream," produced by Anil Bruce, recounts the story of the 2013 Kentucky Derby as seen through the eyes of Virgin Islands racing commentators and enthusiasts, including Sen. Neville James, Dr. Olaf Hendricks, boxer Julian Jackson and radio/ TV personality Rashidi Clenance.
Krigger and Lebron, who both attended Central High School, got their start racing at the Randall “Doc” James Racetrack on St. Croix. Krigger, whose confidence and charisma led interviewerees to describe him as "the Muhammad Ali of V.I. horse-racing," received more media attention in 2013 than Lebron, who the documentary portrayed as more "reserved." But both jockeys, according to "The Dream," are athletes the territory can be proud of.
Ultimately, the dream of a Kentucky Derby win did not come true for the Virgin Islanders who made it to Churchill Downs in 2013. Lebron and Krigger, and their horses Frac Daddy and Goldencents, ended up placing 16th and 17th in the race. Itsmyluckyday, the horse trained by fellow Virgin Islander Gareem Nicholas finished in 15th place.
But that didn’t stop the sources in WTJX’s documentary from saying they experienced moments of "nationalistic pride" while watching the territory’s native sons participating in the most prestigious national competition of a traditional V.I. past time.
Krigger, who shot to fame in 2013 as the first V.I. jockey to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, and potentially the first black jockey to win the title since 1902, has largely disappeared from the spotlight since 2013, according to "The Dream." Some sources in the documentary alluded to the toll that the intense media pressure of 2013 may have taken on Krigger. The documentary notes that a recent post on Krigger’s Facebook page states that he has decided to temporarily give up racing to focus on music.
A second screening of "The Dream: Road to the Kentucky Derby" is planned for Saturday evening at 6:30 at Two Plus Two Restaurant on St. Croix. The documentary will be aired on WTJX Channel 12 on May 2, the day of the 2015 Kentucky Derby, and again on May 3.
"We are going to play it before the [St. Thomas Carnival] parade on the second, and again immediately after the parade ends," Singh said. "It will also be aired on Sunday at one, which is when we normally cover local horse races."
Singh said the documentary is also available for purchase on DVD.