Coa's Son Embarks on Jockey Career at Gulfstream
By Ed Gray
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – As Eibar Coa continues on the road to recovery from severe injuries suffered in a racing accident last February, his son will follow in his footsteps Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
Kieber Coa will ride for the first time in the U.S. in the second race aboard Primpfedenel. After graduating from the Laffit Pincay Jr. Jockey School on Dec. 2, the 19-year-old apprentice jockey recently rode in his first race in Panama, finishing third against his fellow graduates.
“It was a great experience and I had fun,” said the younger Coa, who galloped horses in New York before attending the Panama school for a year. “Now is when it really starts.”
Shortly after enrolling in the famous riding school, his father was involved in a horrific accident at Gulfstream, in which he fractured his C-4 vertebra that left him paralyzed from the neck down. Only two months later, Eibar Coa walked into a press conference marking his release from at Memorial Regional Hospital South, where his doctors termed his amazing progress “miraculous.”
“His accident started a week after I went to Panama. It was a big decision for me, if I wanted to keep on doing what I wanted to do,” said the younger Coa, who was born in Venezuela before moving to the U.S. at age 2. “I just kept on going, and my father was my biggest motivation.”
His father ventured to Panama to watch him ride in his first race.
“For sure, I was very nervous. I was happy and nervous all together. As a father, I guess the main thing is to support our children. So I support his decision to become a jockey. I just have to advise him the best I can,” said the elder Coa, who rode 4,080 winners during his successful career. “I always loved what I did and I still love racing. It’s something he wants to do. Risk is going to be out there no matter what you do. So I guess he’s going to do what he likes to do.”
Kieber Coa will accept mounts at Gulfstream through Dec. 24 before heading to the West Coast to begin riding at Santa Anita on Dec. 26. His father will accompany him to Southern California to help him get situated before returning to South Florida.
“He’s pretty much my professor. He tells me everything. He gives me all the hints and gives me everything I need to become a successful rider,” said the younger Coa, who’ll be represented at Santa Anita by agent Joe Ferrer, who also handles the book of Rafael Bejarano.
Although he grew up around racing, becoming a jockey was not a career path he intended to take.
“I wasn’t really a big fan of horse racing. I played sports, basketball and baseball. Because of my height, it didn’t work out,” said Coa, who went to Western High School in Davie. “I tried out for the baseball in high school, but it didn’t work out. I played good, but especially in high school, they’re looking for big guys.”
In racing, athletes are measured by the size of their heart, and no one has shown more heart than Kieber Coa’s dad.