05/02/2013 12:09PM

Emerald Downs: Krigger gives fans rooting interest in Kentucky Derby

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AUBURN, Wash. – Emerald Downs will celebrate Kentucky Derby Day with a special 1 p.m. Pacific post time on Saturday, a nine-race card, and a host of bells and whistles that make it one of the most festive days of the meeting.

As it turns out, an Emerald-based horse very nearly landed a starting berth at Churchill Downs. Mark Dedomenico’s 3-year-old Carving, purchased privately over the winter, was No. 22 on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leader board and needed at least two defections to get into the field of 20.

[2013 KENTUCKY DERBY: Get PPs, contender profiles, live updates]

Dedomenico had notified Churchill Downs officials of his intent to run Carving in the Derby and that a Thursday morning flight to Louisville from Seattle was on standby should there be any defections by then. There were none, and Carving, who has been working out at Emerald Downs for trainer Mike Puhich and finished sixth in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita in his most recent start, was left out.

The most compelling Emerald-related story line Saturday will revolve around jockey Kevin Krigger, a former leading rider at Emerald who will make his first Kentucky Derby appearance as the rider on Goldencents, the 5-1 third choice on the morning line. In so doing, Krigger will attempt to become the first black jockey since 1902 to ride a Derby winner. Krigger won the 2005 riding title at Emerald and had a big year here in 2010 before moving his base to Northern California and then to Southern California at the end of 2011.

With most of the focus Saturday on the Kentucky Derby, a $7,500 claiming race for older fillies and mares will serve as Emerald’s feature race. The feature attracted a field of six, with the speedy Champali Lace among the leading contenders. Champali Lace, who will be making her first start of 2013, has won nine of her past 15 starts. She will be ridden by Ronald Richard for trainer Junior Coffey.

Others in the field are Clemens Brook, Lady Aragorn, Debbie’s Striker, Montelena, and Jadedite. Both Clemens Brook and Jadedite are trained by Bill Tollett. Clemens Brook will break from post 1 under Emerald’s leading rider, Juan Gutierrez, while Jadedite will start from the outside post under David Lopez.

Emerald’s first post time will revert to 2 p.m. Pacific when racing resumes Sunday. The season’s first stakes race, the $50,000 Hastings Handicap for fillies and mares, is scheduled for May 12.