08/11/2002 11:00PM

Coa sets his sights on New York

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - With two and a half weeks remaining in the meet, Eibar Coa looks to be on his way to a second consecutive riding title at Monmouth. With the prospect of another riding title tacked on to the ones he won on the south Florida circuit before arriving at Monmouth, Coa has begun looking to the future.

"The next step may be New York," Coa said Sunday. "I'm not sure if it will be next year, but I know it will be soon. If I have a really good winter, and have to follow my best mounts to New York, then maybe next year. I'm not 100 percent sure, but I think next year could be a good time to go to New York."

Coa, 31, has 67 victories heading into Wednesday, 12 more than Chuck Lopez. When he first came to Monmouth two years ago, having won titles at Hialeah, and Calder in south Florida since coming to the United States from Venezuela in 1993, the headlines billed Coa as the fresh competitor for Joe Bravo, eight-time riding champion here.

While the last two years those battles were unfortunately dashed with Bravo suffering meet-ending injuries, Coa has fit into the Monmouth jockey colony nicely, riding the best horses and each year having the title measured throughout.

Riding for such New York outfits as Todd Pletcher, Mark Hennig, D. Wayne Lukas, and John Kimmel in their satellite stables in New Jersey, Coa has forged strong connections that will allow him to make a smooth transition to the New York circuit.

This winter, Coa rode prominently for Hennig and other high-profile barns at Gulfstream, and that has continued to this summer. On Belmont Stakes Day, Coa went to New York to ride Hennig's top 3-year-old Gygistar in the Riva Ridge, only to be injured in a spill earlier in the card that would prevent him from being aboard that winning mount.

While Coa has been the clear-cut favorite for this year's riding title since Bravo was sidelined early in the meet, the road has not been smooth. Coa served a 10-day suspension dating from last year to start the meet, and then was in two spills in nine days - the first at Monmouth that also resulted in Bravo being injured, the second on Belmont Day - but escaped serious injuries.

Through the injuries Coa has remained fearless, though, and is also fearless of the next step in his career.

"I'm not afraid" to go to New York, Coa said. "I know can work hard and make it there, but I want to have support with me and be with the right people."

Valid Video on the rise

Valid Video came out of his impressive victory in the Grade 3, $100,000 Sapling for 2-year-olds here Saturday in fine shape, trainer Dennis Manning said Sunday.

Since winning his maiden race on June 14, clocking five furlongs in 57.11 seconds - the fastest of the meet - Manning rested Valid Video for a start in the Sapling. Manning said it was very rewarding to see everything go according to plan, with Valid Video, ridden by Chuck Lopez, winning the Sapling by 2 1/4 lengths in a quick 1:09.88 after setting rapid fractions on the lead.

"He can rate, but he had no choice but to go the lead, breaking from the inside on a speed-favoring track," Manning said. "That's what's good. He's fast but he doesn't have to be on the lead, as you saw in his maiden win."

Manning said he would point Valid Video, a gelded son of Valid Wager, for a start in the Grade 1 Futurity at Belmont Sept. 15 going a flat mile. While Valid Video has shown a great sprinting ability, Manning is confident that will translate to longer distances.

"His pedigree doesn't suggest he will be able to stretch out," Manning said, "but his mental attitude tells me he does. He is already a professional on the track."

The Futurity, Manning said, will be a key race for Valid Video's fall campaign, because a solid performance would put him on the fast track to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, with a start in the Champagne at Belmont after the Futurity.

"I'll have plenty of time to train him to get the distance," Manning said. "The Futurity will tell us if he can get a distance, but right now I know he can compete with any 2-year-old sprinter in the country."

Bravo had rods removed

Joe Bravo, eight-time leading rider at Monmouth, underwent surgery last Friday to have the steel rods removed from his left leg, the remnants of a spill last July that sidelined Bravo for the rest of the 2001 meet. Bravo has also been recovering well from a fractured left wrist suffered in a spill here May 30, putting an end to his outstanding start of the meet.

Bravo began physical therapy Monday for his leg, starting his rehab to return riding by December, his agent, Danny Mellul, said. Mellul said that a return in December at Calder, before Gulfstream Park opens, is the goal for Bravo.

Bravo's wrist is healing well, Mellul said, after surgery last month that repaired the fracture, and he is expected to have full range of motion soon.

In the leg surgery Bravo underwent Friday, surgeons removed the steel rods that were used to help the leg heal. In last year's spill, Bravo broke his left leg in four places and underwent intense physical therapy to resume riding this March at Gulfstream.

* Julian Pimentel, who escaped serious injury in a spill Friday, took off his mounts Saturday but resumed riding on Sunday. Pimentel was thrown from his mount, Purple Wonder, in the sixth race Friday, and although the spill looked bad, Pimentel declined going to the hospital. Pimentel said he twisted an ankle but was well enough to return Sunday.

* Brucker's Brother has had hard luck his last two starts, setting the pace and just getting caught on the wire. In the featured eighth race Wednesday, a two-other-than New Jersey-bred allowance at one mile, Brucker's Brother has drawn the field he needs to reverse his runner-up fortunes as the controlling pace from the rail. Rafael Mojica Jr. rides from post 2 for trainer Frank Costa.