June 28, 2012

By KENNETH MILLER

 

LA Watts Times Correspondent

 

It’s the first Saturday of summer on the backstretch of  Betfair Hollywood Park race track and just as the sun rises so too does the horses, trainers, grooms, exercise riders and jockeys, but there is one person who stands out in the crowd.

 

Kevin Krigger leaps from his black Dodge Durango with his green helmet, jockey boots, wearing a pair of blue jeans with a whip in his hand.

 

Down the dirt dust road he casually walks toward the barn with his agent, Vietnam veteran Tom Knust to discuss the workload for the morning.

 

The morning began at 7:30 and his first exercise mount is at eight and some six or seven mounts later he’s off to the jockey room for the first of two mounts he will have on the day’s racing card.

 

It is a routine that Krigger is all too familiar with as he competes for mounts on the most competitive circuit in America.

 

“From top to bottom this is the toughest level of competition there is,” explained Knust, who is a former racing secretary at Santa Anita Park.

 

So, for any jockey to earn mounts and sustain success is a rarity, but for a Black jockey as Krigger is makes for giant headlines in a sport that was once dominated by Blacks but is now almost void of them.

 

Marlon St. Julian of Louisiana became the first Black jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby in nearly 80 years when he rode 50-1 shot Curule in the 2001 Derby.

 

Krigger came oh so close to riding 2012 Derby and Preakness winner ‘I’ll Have Another’ but the mount went to Mario Gutierrez instead, although Krigger had worked the horse for trainer Doug O’Neal.

 

“That would have been great if that was to happen, but I didn’t get the assignment so I just keep on working. My time will come,” said Krigger.

 

Born in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Island, Krigger has being riding for more than a decade, earning the respect of trainers and winning races at such small tracks as Thistledown in Ohio, Mountaineer Park in Chester West Virginia and then began to really raise eyebrows when he moved west to Golden Gate Fields in Northern California.

 

The soft-spoken and determined Krigger has career earnings of $14,456,725 from 6,196 mounts including 880 first place finishes, 899 second place finishes and 872 third place finishes.

 

During the current year which also includes his mounts at Betfair Hollywood Park in Inglewood, he’s rode 344 horses, won 41 races, second 35 times, third 57 times and earnings of $1,566,059.

 

Jockey’s earn percentages of purses that range from 10 for first, five for second, and three for third and so on. They also earn a meager $67-70 for each horse they ride, but 25 percent of their earnings go to agent fees.

 

It is a brutal business to say the least, not discounting that every mount could be your last. Horse’s breakdown, jockey make mistakes, but in the glamour of the sport fans and consumed bettors are only concern with winning.

 

Krigger understands that. The 28-year old has four children with his girlfriend Taisha, Kiki (11), Kunzai (5), Kevin Jr. (6) and Kynaira (2).

 

It should not be lost on you that all of his children initials are the same as his “KK” and their names are engraved onto the red leather saddle that rides on his many mounts.

 

He is not just happy to be along for the rides, but wants to become a dominant figure at the racetrack.

 

“I feel that I am the best jockey, but I am not always on the best horse,” he stated. In this business the best horses usually go to the jockey with the best reputation, talent or relationships.

 

Krigger has the talent and he is winning enough to gain a reputation as a capable jockey who can be trusted with a million dollar race- horse. Knust is adding the ingredient of developing the relationships.

 

“This (Betfair Hollywood Park) meeting has been slow, but I think he will have a big meeting at Del Mar and will be competing for meet titles for years to come,” added Knust.

 

For now, Krigger will make the most of his infrequent mounts in Inglewood, but he is expected to be prominent at Fairplex in Pomona although the big name jockeys by pass the bull ring.

 

“I just want to ride. I love riding horses and it is all that I ever wanted to do. If I wasn’t doing this I would be singing Reggae music,” Krigger concluded.

 

In a sport where Blacks rode 13 of the 15 horses in the first Kentucky Derby in 1875 to only disappear by 1921, Kevin Krigger is a vivid reminder of the good old days and living proof that Blacks can do more than just dominate in basketball, football and baseball. They can ride horses too, and for that we just want Kevin to Ride — KEVIN — Ride!

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June 28, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) — Amare Stoudemire has been fined $50,000 by the NBA after the New York Knicks star tweeted a gay slur.

Stu Jackson, the league’s executive vice president of basketball operations, announced the fine Tuesday in a release, calling Stoudemire's language offensive and derogatory.

Stoudemire apologized Sunday to a fan for using the slur in response to a crude tweet in which the fan admonished the All-Star to “make up for this past season.”

The fan, @BFerrelli, tweeted his comment on Saturday and received a direct message containing an expletive and the slur from the account Twitter verifies as Stoudemire’s. BFerrelli, identified by the New York Daily News as Brian Ferrelli, posted a screen shot of the direct message. Direct messages can only be seen by the sender and the recipient.

Stoudemire also issued an apology in a statement Tuesday.

“I am a huge supporter of civil rights for all people,” he said. “I am disappointed in myself for my statement to a fan. I should have known better and there is no excuse.”

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June 28, 2012

By KYLE HIGHTOWER | Associated Press 

 

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The NBA remains the leader among professional sports leagues in diversity hiring practices, according to a report released Tuesday.

The University of Central Florida's Institute of Diversity and Ethics in Sport gave the NBA an A-plus for racial hiring and A-minus for gender hiring in its annual Racial and Gender Report Card. The league received an overall grade of A.

It is the third straight report that the NBA has scored at least an A for both race and gender.

Primary study author Richard Lapchick said NBA Commissioner David Stern's leadership is one of the biggest reasons why the league continues to be a model in diversity from front office executives to coaches and players.

"I think everybody else changed over the years because of pressure, but I think the NBA started with David Stern to apply its own internal pressure to make the league office and teams look more like America," Lapchick said. "Because he's been so respected for so long from pretty much everybody involved in NBA and in other leagues, it has heightened his status even further. They know what his priorities are and try to implement them."

For the first time in NBA history, there were more head coaches of color (53 percent) than white head coaches. Also, African-Americans comprised 47 percent of all NBA coaches, the highest percentage since the 2001-02 season.

The 20-percentage point increase in coaches of color was the greatest for people of color in any position in 2011-2012.

"Having that many coaches of color is big. I'm not sure I thought I'd see that day," Lapchick said.

In the NBA league office, 34 percent of all professional employees are people of color and 42 percent are women. There were also six more women in vice president positions at the league office during the 2011-2012 season than in last year's report, increasing the total to 39 positions.

Lapchick said that though the NBA consistently has outpaced other major professional leagues, they still have some room to improve when it comes to gender hiring at the team level, where women make up 18 percent of vice president and 25 percent of senior administrator positions.

But he also noted that the increasing presence of women and minorities of color in ownership roles would surely lead to improvement because "they bring their life experiences and knowledge of qualified people" to their jobs. There were 20 people of color with ownership stakes in teams this past season and 15 women in ownership roles.

It's also why Lapchick said he believes the NBA has avoided instituting mandates like the NFL's Rooney Rule, which mandates teams interview a minority for open coaching positions.

"I once had a conversation with Stern in which he said he wanted to get to the stage when no one notices when you hire a person of color or when they fire a person of color," Lapchick said. "He said he wanted it to be that people would see they were just trying to hire the best person. That's permeated through the league and something I hope a lot of people will take note of."

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June 28, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) — Three of the NBA's bright, young stars — Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose — will grace the cover of "NBA 2K13," the latest edition in a popular video game series.

The trio were selected Tuesday, a year after Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird were put on the cover of the game as the league and current players fought over a new labor deal.

Now the game's makers are moving from the past to the NBA's future. Each of the three new cover boys has won the Rookie of the Year award and Rose was the MVP in 2010-11.

Developed by Visual Concepts, a 2K Sports studio, "NBA 2K13" will be available Oct. 2 in North America and Oct. 5 internationally.

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 June 28, 2012

 

By HOWARD FENDRICH | Associated Press

 

 

 

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — On one point Tuesday at Wimble­don, Serena Williams dumped a forehand into the net and dropped to a knee, her jaw clenched as she let out a shriek.

 

On another, she pushed a backhand into the net while her feet gave way, yet again leaving her awkwardly splayed on the grass at Court 2, the same place where her sister Venus lost a day earlier.

 

By the end, the younger Williams was screaming after nearly every point, good or bad — and, well, there were plenty of both. Her harder-than-the-score-looked 6-2, 6-4 victory over the 62nd-ranked Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic in the first round at the All England Club wasn’t exactly perfect or pretty.

 

“Definitely a little relief,” the sixth-seeded Williams said. “I was letting out a lot of cries. I was happy to get through that.”

 

Yes, Williams got the job done, something she couldn’t say the last time she was at a major championship. Last month at the French Open, the 30-year-old American tossed away a big lead — nine times, she was two points from victory — and lost to a woman ranked 111th, the only first-round exit of Williams’ career in 48 Grand Slam tournaments.

 

“I learned that you got to ... keep going,” Williams said about that stunning defeat. “I was really disappointed. Obviously, I was extremely disappointed. But as Kelly Clarkson says, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ ”

 

In part because of a series of health scares that sidelined her for about 10 months, Williams has gone two years since the most recent of her 13 major titles, including four at Wimbledon. And even though she bowed out quickly in Paris, Williams is a popular pick to do well this fortnight.

 

“For me, when I’m playing a match,” Williams said, “I either win it or lose it.”

 

She’ll want to play better than she did against Zahlavova Strycova, who is 0-21 against top-10 opponents, 13-27 in Grand Slam matches, and never has made it past the third round at any major.

 

Some other top players were sluggish at the start against unheralded foes Tuesday, when action was cut short in the evening because of rain.

 

Two-time Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal, for instance, trailed 4-0 against 80th-ranked Thomas Bellucci of Brazil before turning it around and winning 7-6 (0), 6-2, 6-3.

 

“Fantastic for me,” Nadal said, “but I have to improve a lot for the next round.”

 

Defending women’s champion Petra Kvitova fell behind 3-0 and 4-1 but eventually used a seven-game run to take control and beat 96th-ranked Akgul Amanmuradova 6-4, 6-4. The match was halted by a 30-minute rain delay in the second set; when they returned, Kvitova needed all of three minutes to wrap things up.

 

“In the beginning,” Kvitova acknowledged, “I think I was nervous.”

 

Twelve singles matches were suspended in progress and four were postponed altogether. Among those that began but didn't finish, 2003 U.S. Open champion and three-time Wimbledon runner-up Andy Roddick led British wild-card entry Jamie Baker by a set and a break; French Open finalist Sara Errani was a point from beating U.S. qualifier CoCo Vandeweghe; and 21st-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada was a game from eliminating Santiago Giraldo of Colombia, leading by two sets and 5-4 in the third.

 

Winners included 10th-seeded Mardy Fish of the United States, playing his first match since having a medical procedure on his heart a month ago. The 30-year-old Fish hit 24 aces and defeated Ruben Ramirez-Hidalgo of Spain 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-6 (1), then didn’t attend a postmatch news conference; a tour spokesman said Fish wasn’t feeling well, but didn’t elaborate.

 

All three Australian men in action Tuesday exited, meaning none reached the second round at the All England Club for the first time since 1938. No. 20 Bernard Tomic, a quarterfinalist at 18 years old in 2011, was knocked out by David Goffin, the Belgian wild-card recipient who took a set off Roger Federer in the fourth round of the French Open; 2002 Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt lost to No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga; and Matthew Ebden was beaten by Benoit Paire of France.

 

“The boys didn’t have the best day,” said Hewitt, who used to be ranked No. 1 but has dealt with a series of injuries, is now 202nd, and needed a wild card to get into the field.

 

He hadn’t bowed out in the first round at Wimbledon since 2003. Williams never has. Never lost before the third round, actually, and now is 13-0 in openers at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament.

 

Last year, Williams questioned why tournament organizers assigned her and her sister to play on Court 2 rather than the larger and more prestigious Centre Court or Court 1. They have, after all, won a total of nine singles championships at Wimbledon and faced each other in four of those finals.

 

Given that Venus lost in straight sets on Court 2 on Monday, and Serena went through a workout to win there on Tuesday, the issue came up.

 

“I can’t even talk about it. I’m over it,” Williams said, raising her left palm. “I just can’t talk about that right now. I’m not in the mood.”

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