03/10/2003 1:00AM

Coa moving to New York


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Eibar Coa, a dominant rider on the south Florida circuit for several years and the leading rider at the current Gulfstream Park meet, will move his tack to New York by early April.

Coa, 32, said he wanted to make the move to New York earlier in his career, but an injury in 2001 and a suspension in 2002 interrupted his plans. Through Monday, Coa had 64 victories at the Gulfstream meet, two more than Cornelio Velasquez.

"I've been waiting for this kind of Gulfstream meet for the last three years," said Coa, who will retain his agent, Joe Ferrer, in New York. "I always thought a good Gulfstream meet would open that door. This year proved I can ride and can compete against New York riders."

One of Coa's biggest supporters is trainer Nick Zito, who was instrumental in launching the New York careers of Chris Antley, Jose Santos, and Mike Smith.

"What I saw in those riders - Eibar definitely fits the bill," Zito said. "If he gets the slightest break, he's going to break through.''

Coa, a Venezuelan, tried New York in the spring of 1998, when he rode 24 winners from 206 mounts and tied for ninth in the standings of the Belmont spring/summer meet.

Coa said an exact date for his New York debut will be determined after he evaluates his Gulfstream commitments for the next three weeks.