04/06/2009 12:00AM

Coa likes his chances in Ky. Derby


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Eibar Coa packed his tack at the conclusion of Sunday's Gulfstream Park program in preparation for his return to New York Wednesday at Aqueduct. Coa will leave town following a roller-coaster week that began with his disqualification aboard Big Drama in Gulfstream Park's Grade 2 Swale on March 28 and ended last Saturday in the Hawthorne winner's circle with the Kentucky Derby-bound Musket Man after an impressive triumph in the Illinois Derby.

Coa won 40 races and was among the leading riders at Gulfstream at the time of his departure. He is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to ride Musket Man, who will be the third Kentucky Derby mount of his career.

"I believe Musket Man is the best horse I've had so far, and he gives me my best chance of winning the race," said Coa who finished fourth in last year's Derby aboard Tale of Ekati. "I was extremely impressed by the way he handled himself throughout the race on Saturday and the way he galloped out past the wire. It gives me confidence that he'll have no problem handling a mile and one-quarter."

Coa said he also believes Musket Man, who was credited with a career-best 98 Beyer Speed Figure in the Illinois Derby, could have run even faster had he needed to.

"I'd never ridden him before, but it seems to me like he really needs a target to run at down the stretch," Coa said. "In this race, the leaders were done at the quarter pole, and he began to look around a little after he made the lead. But what I liked best is his professionalism. In a 20-horse field, he's definitely the type of horse who'll allow me to maneuver through and around traffic, if necessary."

Coa said he was delighted with his business during the 2009 Gulfstream session, despite the disappointment of losing an apparent victory aboard Big Drama in the Swale. Big Drama was disqualified for bumping with runner-up This Ones for Phil in the stretch.

"It was a tough call by the stewards," Coa said. "I guess it could have gone either way, and from my point of view, I felt they should have left us up. We did come out to bump the other horse, but it happened right at the wire and he was never going to get past me at that point."

Whether he's winning races at Gulfstream or not, Coa is just pleased to be able to spend his winters in south Florida.

"My family lives down here year round, so I'm just glad to be able to spend the time with them," Coa said. "I also come back home at the conclusion of the racing week in New York to spend Mondays and Tuesdays with my family, and that should give me the opportunity to work Big Drama on a regular basis prior to his next start, whenever or wherever that might be."

Ward rides hot streak with juveniles

Trainer Wesley Ward has undoubtedly been "king of the 2-year-olds" up and down the East Coast this season. The former jockey has sent out the first- and second-place finishers in both juvenile races locally this spring as well as the winners of the first two baby races run at Keeneland last weekend.

Ward will be favored to continue his hot streak here in Thursday's second race. He's entered a pair of 2-year-olds, likely favorite Sparkle of Light and Callipygian Dream. Sparkle of Light, a daughter of Alke, posted a three-furlong gate work in 35 seconds over the local strip March 28.

Sparkle of Light will be ridden by Elvis Trujillo who posted a hat trick Sunday that included both ends of the early daily double with Indy Kings Dancer and Stormy Lake. Trujillo rode the double for trainer Robert Dibona, who completed a three-bagger of his own Sunday with Diamond Isle in the eighth race. Diamond Isle was ridden by Mario Madrid.

Clement nominates six for stakes

Trainer Christophe Clement has nominated a half-dozen fillies and mares to Saturday's South Beach Stakes, led by Grade 1 winner Rutherienne, who has not started since finishing third as the favorite in Calder's Grade 3 My Charmer Handicap on Dec. 6. Clement also can choose from stakes winner All Is Vanity, the multiple Group 3 European winner Carribean Sunset, the Group 3-placed Cicerole, the multiple European stakes winner Lindelaan, or the Group 2 South American winner Rising Fever.

Of that group, only Rising Fever, who won the Manatee Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 31, has started this year.

Flibberjibit, who also is nominated for the South Beach, worked an easy half-mile in 51.60 seconds over the main track Monday at Calder. Flibberjibit is coming off a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Honey Fox on March 7.

The South Beach, the next-to-last stakes on the 2009 schedule, will be drawn Wednesday.