05/24/2007 12:00AM

Hot young rider makes local scene


The emergence of jockey Kevin Krigger early this season at Suffolk Downs has shot excitement into the local riding colony. Young riders with his credentials and skills don't usually ply their trade here, and so the burning question is, "What's he doing here?"

Krigger, a 24-year-old native of St. Croix, the Virgin Islands, rode as an apprentice in Southern California and challenged for the riding title the last three years at Emerald Downs. Riding this summer in Boston isn't about hitting all four corners of the United States, it's about getting a fellow Virgin Islander his shot in America.

Krigger rode Bright Mike to victory in a $12,500 claiming race Monday to give his friend and fellow 24-year-old, trainer Rasharn Creque, his first victory in the U.S. The win was one of three on the card for Krigger, and it helped send him into a tie for third in the standings, behind Winston Thompson and Tammi Piermarini.

"Rashern called me this winter and said he wanted to try the mainland and asked if I could come with him," said Krigger. "The racetrack people here seem really nice, and I've been getting some really good chances. I'm having fun and working hard."

Krigger is passing on the kind of help he got from jockey Julio Felix, who came from the Virgin Islands a decade earlier and guided Krigger in his jump from St. Croix to America.

"He brought me to Ohio, got me started, and showed me the basics," said Krigger.

Felix is now among the leaders at River Downs, while Krigger has since criss-crossed the country and sampled several different circuits. He and Creque view Suffolk as an ideal spot for taking a shot.

"I was a leading trainer back home, but we wanted to try and upgrade," Creque said. "We were told the purses and the competition were about right for what we're trying to do. This was a big step, but we're enjoying it so far. I learned everything about training from my dad, and he says there was a lot of rejoicing and a big celebration back home when we won."

Creque has only three horses in his stable, but more are on the way from Florida. Krigger has his eyes on Florida as well, and the confidence to make the next jump when the time is right.

"I can't say I have an idol or someone I try to be just like," said Krigger. "Julio Felix taught me how to position my body and how to understand pace, but I don't want to look like somebody else. I want someone to say they want to look like me. I don't want to say I'm looking beyond Suffolk, although it's not like I always dreamed of riding here.

"We might make this our regular summer place, and I think I'd like to try riding in Miami in the winter. We'll see where the wind blows. No matter what, I know I'll work hard when I get there."

* Business is up from last year over the first three weeks of the meet, the Massachusetts Handicap is coming back and, a true bellwether indicator, the barber shop on the first floor will open again starting June 4 on live racing days. It has been closed for several years.