Coa Returns To Gulfstream Winner's Circle For Trophy Presentation
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Eibar Coa returned to the Gulfstream Park winner’s circle on closing day Sunday to present fellow jockey Paco Lopez with a trophy to commemorate his second straight riding title.
It was an emotional and exciting return for Coa, who broke his C-4 vertebra in a racing spill on Feb. 18. Diagnosed by doctors as a quadriplegic after being admitted to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Coa made a recovery that was deemed “miraculous” by neurosurgeon Dr. Scott Berta. The 40-year-old veteran rider, who was released from the hospital on April 14, was able to walk into the winner’s circle Sunday for the trophy presentation as well as receive a check of $25,000 from a benefit golf tournament..
“It feels great. I feel like I have a second opportunity to just be alive. I went down doing what I love to do, so just coming back to the track made my day,” said Coa, who is continuing out-patient rehabilitation. “I’m glad I had the opportunity to come back before Gulfstream ends, because it’s one of the tracks I love the most. With all the support from my wife Rebeca, my family and friends, this is all I need.”
The sixth-race, the $750,000 Capital Request Florida Thoroughbred Charities Stakes, was designated as the trophy race to honor Lopez, and the defending riding champion fittingly rode the winner, Romacaca ($4.80). Lopez, who was involved in the spill on Feb. 18 and missed nearly a month of riding with various injuries, rode 83 winners, 18 more than former Gulfstream champion John Velazquez. Javier Castellano was third with 59 winners.
“It’s unbelievable with all the good riders here, to win the title,” Lopez said. “It was great to have Eibar here today.”
Todd Pletcher took down his eighth straight training title with 48 winners, 13 more than last winter when he saddled 35 winners. Highlights of Pletcher’s 2011 season include saddling E. Paul Robsham Stable’s R Heat Lightning for impressive victories in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) and Davona Dale (G3), as well as victories by Awesome Maria in the Rampart (G3) and Sabin (G3).
Pletcher finished 17 wins ahead of Nick Canani, his nearest rival who was followed by David Fawkes with 19.
Frank Calabrese topped the owners’ standings with 33 trip to the winner’s circle.