11/29/2002 12:00AM

School's out for Krigger


ALBANY, Calif. - Kevin Krigger returned to Golden Gate Fields on Wednesday. He rode here last winter when he was a talented apprentice before heading south upon being slapped with a series of suspensions that left both him and then-agent Boone McCanna frustrated and mystified by the rulings.

"I left because of the days, too, but I wanted to ride with the best riders and for the best trainers," said Krigger, a 20-year-old native of the U.S. Virgin Islands. "It was a heck of an experience. I can't put into words what it was like to ride some of those good horses. It felt too good to be true."

Krigger finished tied for fifth with 54 victories in the Golden Gate Fields standings last year despite arriving more than one month into the meet. He was sixth in the standings at Hollywood Park with 27 wins after heading south.

Krigger now understands a bit better some of the suspensions he received here last winter. It was the stewards' way of schooling a young rider on safety.

It was a hard way to learn, but in his seven months since leaving northern California, Krigger said he "hasn't had to see the stewards."

Krigger won at over a 15 percent clip last year and is currently winning at a rate of nearly 12 percent this year, with 88 wins from 739 mounts.

But with the loss of his apprentice allowance, he said he found that his business really slowed.

"I had a lot of trainers I became friends with [here]," Krigger said, explaining his move back to Golden Gate. "They know me already. If you go somewhere where they don't know you, it's harder.

"I've come back, and I'm working hard. They've been very supportive. I've kind of taken up where I left off."

However, Krigger is glad he went to Southern California and gained experience.

"I've got a lot of Laffit [Pincay Jr.], Alex [Solis], and Mike Smith in me now," he said. "I think I'm 75 percent better than I was before. I know I've learned more than I've accomplished."

Krigger won the respect of the Southern California jockey colony.

"I had packed my tack to come up here and was sitting in the jockeys' kitchen when Kent Desormeaux came up to me and said, 'We had fun with you. Go up and show them what you learned.' That meant a lot to me."

o Sunday's Golden Gate feature is a 1 1/16-mile $50,000 optional claimer on the turf that will include Cappucino Kid, a winner in his last start, Euribor, Edneator, and Capt. Fly Hook.