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Krigger could complete parallels with Gutierrez in Derby

  • Kevin Krigger has been thrust into the spotlight by Goldencents (Benoit Photos)

Santa Anita Derby winner Goldencents jogged over Santa Anita's fast main track Saturday morning.

"He had an easy day today," trainer Doug O'Neill said. "He'll go back to galloping tomorrow. He's doing super."

Goldencents will try to give O'Neill back-to-back Derby wins. At this time last year, O'Neill sent out I'll Have Another to Derby glory in a whirlwind Triple Crown chase, that was ended by injury on the eve of the Belmont Stakes.

Both colts have been ridden by jockeys with similar profiles, who emerged from racing's doldrums to its pinnacle.

One year ago, Mario Gutierrez did so by winning the Kentucky Derby on I'll Have Another in his very first attempt. Now Kevin Krigger is poised to do the same thing if Goldencents can capture the Run for the Roses on May 4.

There are other similarities. Gutierrez is 26, 5-7 and weighs 114 pounds. Krigger is 29, 5-7 and weighs 114 pounds. Each resides near Santa Anita, Gutierrrez in Arcadia and Krigger in Azusa, California.

Gutierrez won the Santa Anita Derby last year on I'll Have Another, and Krigger won the Santa Anita Derby on April 6 aboard Goldencents.

There, except for their passion for the sport, similarities dissipate. Gutierrez, from Veracruz, Mexico, has been riding since 2006. Krigger, from St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, has been riding since 2001.

Gutierrez would be the last to counsel Krigger as the first Saturday in May approaches.

"Krigger is far more experienced than I am," Gutierrez said. "He has more years riding, and I'm no one to give him advice. He has his own people and his own horse. He believes in them and that's the most important thing, to have confidence.

"Krigger started way before me. I only have seven years riding experience with Thoroughbreds."

Still, his achievement and memories are etched in stone, never to be erased. Gutierrez recognizes that.

"You look back and see what you've accomplished and it's unbelievable that you've won the Kentucky Derby," he said. "Kevin can look forward to a great experience."

Krigger vows not to be nonplused by what lies ahead.

"I'm going to approach it as any other race," he said of the Derby. "It is what it is. It's a mile and a quarter with 20 horses and I'm just going to go ahead and do what I've been doing with Goldencents all along, which is make sure he runs his race.

"I'm not trying to dictate his race because it's the Derby. I'm just going to ride my horse and ride the race. Goldencents, he has dealt with the crowds pretty easily so far.

"We had a good crowd (33,005) on Santa Anita Derby Day," Krigger noted. "Before the race he handled the paddock pretty well. After the race, he handled the winner's circle pretty well, and we had a huge crowd in there.

"We're pretty confident the horse is going to handle everything, and we know that I am. "We're just ready to win."

There's more to the tale of tape, according to O'Neill.

"Horses like to run for both of them," the trainer said. "They're both very confident in their skills, and yet not arrogant. They're both very appreciative to the connections who give them chances.

"They're both talented guys who were just looking for opportunity to knock, and it did, and they've really taken advantage of it."

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