04/15/2013 12:35PM

Tampa Bay Downs notes: Coa back on track with help from agent Sanchez

Coady Photography/Keeneland
Java's War (left) wins the Blue Grass Stakes one start after finishing second in the Tampa Bay Derby.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Jockey Daniel Coa bounced up off the deck after going down in a spill during last Friday’s fifth race at Tampa Bay Downs, let the doctors check him out, took off his next mount as the rules dictated, and then promptly went back out and posted his third and fourth wins on the card. That’s the new Danny Coa.

Coa had gotten off to a quick start, but midway through the meet fell into a slump and was not riding in good form. He was lackluster at times and seemed to have lost the focus that is so crucial to a rider.

Then Coa hooked back up with agent and former jockey Herson Sanchez, and it proved to be a crucial change. Sanchez picked up Daniel Centeno when he was toiling in relative obscurity several years back and teamed up with him to win 125 races and the first of four Tampa riding titles. They separated for a while and Sanchez worked for Centeno again from last summer through earlier this meeting, but the pair split up again in mid-February and Sanchez took Coa’s engagements.

Sanchez had handled Coa for a short time earlier and felt the rider had the potential to be successful if he could put everything together.

“He’s got the talent,” Sanchez told a friend when he took Coa’s book. “We’ve just got to get him pointed in the right direction.”

Well, it looks like the Sanchez compass worked because coming into Sunday’s card Coa has won 22 races since he and Sanchez teamed up, giving him 38 winners for the meeting, which ranks sixth in the jockey standings. That’s despite Coa missing Saturday to let some of the bumps and bruises from his spill heal further.

Coa, a 30-year-old from Venezuela, has two young sons at home and a daughter from a previous marriage. He values the time he spends with his family.

“It’s hard to head to the jocks’ room when your boys want you to stay with them, but they’re learning Daddy won’t be gone long,” he said.

Coa is headed to Delaware Park this summer.

Java’s War validates Tampa Derby

Java’s War’s late-running victory in the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes places him squarely in the spotlight as a prime contender for this year’s Kentucky Derby and further solidifies the Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby as one of the pivotal preps on the road to the Run for the Roses.

Java’s War was the only horse doing any serious running behind Verrazano in the Tampa Bay Derby when he finished second in his 2013 debut, and despite his propensity for breaking slowly, he has the late-running style many handicappers feel is the preferred method for victory on the first Saturday in May.

Super Saver and Street Sense both used the Tampa Bay Derby as a useful prep en route to wins in the Kentucky Derby in recent years.

◗ Dazzlin Dr Cologne continued his love affair with the Tampa main track Sunday, when he scored his 12th win over the surface. All but one of his 13 career victories have come locally.

◗ Handicappers would do well to keep an eye on Tampa Bay Downs turf sprinters, especially Silver Cloud and Hold on Smokey. Those two went hammer and tong through fractions of 20.94 seconds and 43.25 in a five-furlong starter allowance Sunday and then hit the wire together, with Silver Cloud prevailing by a nose. The final time of 55.06 was just .14 of a second off the five-furlong turf track record.