He arrived at Monmouth Park with
a famous last name and a legend to follow. Now Keiber Coa is marking his own
The 18-year-old apprentice
jockey is the son of Eibar Coa, who was the leading rider here in 2001 and 2002
and won more than 22 riding titles and 4,000 races, including the 2010
Breeders’ Cup Sprint, in his career. The younger Coa has only ridden in just
over 100 races, but he’s already notched hat tricks on successive live racing
days at Monmouth on June 3 and June 8 and heads are turning.
“I like him
a lot. He’s a nice kid and a very smart kid,” said Juan Serey, one of the
trainers giving Keiber Coa a leg up this meet. “He reminds me of his father. He
rides like him and he thinks like him. I won a lot of races with his father and
now he is winning with my horses.”
are native Venezuelans but the elder rider recommended that Keiber attend the
Laffit Pincay, Jr. Jockey School in Panama rather than learn the trade
at an academy in their home country because Pincay’s school has an outstanding
record of producing successful riders including Alex Solis, Cornelio Velasquez,
Jose Lezcano and Monmouth-based Elvis Trujillo and Paco Lopez.
“When I got
to the school I was told that just because I have a big last name and a famous
father, I would have to make it on my own,” said Keiber, who graduated last
December and has already won 12 races. “I had to learn things and do things for
myself and I made my own way.”
Right out of the gate, that proved a difficult
task. In only Keiber’s first week at the school in Feb. 2011, his father was
involved in a racing accident at Gulfstream that fractured his C-4 vertebra.
Eibar Coa was told that he would be paralyzed from the neck down.
“That was a
very tough time,” said Keiber. “I had a big decision to make. I didn’t know if
I still wanted to be a jockey and stick with it. I talked to my dad in the
hospital and he told me he would support whatever I decided. I grew up my whole
life watching him ride and always wanted to be like him. He was my motivation.
I didn’t quit.”
has made a remarkable recovery and is now walking and even driving again and is
enjoying a second career as a jockey agent in Florida.
Keiber said that his parents plan to visit Monmouth this summer to watch him
father will see is what horsemen here have already noticed about the young
rider, who keeps his five-pound weight advantage until one year after his fifth
win, which was achieved on April 29, 2012.
to remember that he’s a bug (apprentice) because he’s very mature and a really
fast learner. He looks good on a horse. He’s got good hands and a good seat and
he gets them to run for him,” said Cory Moran, who is Coa’s agent and represented
Lopez (2008) and Shaun Bridgmohan (1998) when they won Eclipse Awards as the
top apprentice rider in North America.
“At first it was tough to break in because there are so many established and
good riders here, but now that the trainers see what he can do, business is
really picking up. If there’s a hot bug rider in the room, everyone will jump
in on the action.”
Serey, trainers Tim
Hills and Ben Perkins,
Jr. are giving Coa the call and he has also won races for Wesley Ward and Eddie
Plesa, Jr. among others.
presents a learning opportunity and even better, Coa has a top teacher.
call my dad. We talk every day and we go over every race, the horses and the
PPs (past performances),” said Keiber. “He helps me a lot and I trust his
riding in four races and winning none in December 2011, this year so far Coa
has a dozen victories, 14 seconds and 13 thirds from 109 mounts. His double hat
trick effort and early success here make one wonder if an Eclipse Award as
leading apprentice is in the cards.
even started riding, I always dreamed of that,” said Coa. “But that’s something
that takes a lot of hard work and commitment and isn’t easy to get. I am
willing to work my hardest to accomplish that. That and being the best I can
are some things that I want.”
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