Jockey Kevin Krigger has a chance to make history this Saturday, when he competes in the Kentucky Derby aboard the favored horse: Goldencents. If he wins, he'll be the first black jockey to do so since 1902.
Where has he been training for this big day? Right in our backyard at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia.
Santa Anita has a long and storied history in the racing world and it's become a launching pad for a number of high profile trainers and jockeys. The picturesque setting and well-kept grounds have kept it on the map both for high-level horse races and film/TV productions.
"Its considered one of the most beautiful venues for horse racing in the entire world," said Jon White, a commentator for HRTV. "There have been a number of movies shot in Santa Anita, all the way back to the Marx Bros. and their famous movie 'A Day At The Races.' Even the movie 'Seabisbuit' was filmed more recently at Santa Anita. A lot of television series, as well, going back to the 'Rockford Files' and more recently 'The Mentalist.'"
Opened on Christmas Day in 1934, Santa Anita established itself as a breeding ground both horse and human racing stars. Racers like John Longden, Bill Shoemaker, Laffit Pincay Jr., and horses like Seabiscuit have all raced and/or trained at Santa Anita. There's even a statue dedicated to Seabiscuit right outside of the horse stables.
The upcoming Kentucky Derby is a big deal for 29-year-old Krigger, who is a native of St. Croix. He has been riding horses his entire life, foregoing other more popular sports to hone his craft.
"He worked his way up in the United States riding at the smaller tracks before taking a chance and coming to a major league track like Santa Anita," said White. "He did make a successful transition to Santa Anita and was able to pick up this mount, which is really a plum mount for the Kentucky Derby, on Goldencents.
The 139th Kentucky Derby takes place on Saturday May 4.