Jockey Eibar Coa received a visit Thursday evening from a special friend with a special gift.
Coa, the regular rider of Kentucky Derby (G1) contender MUCHO MACHO MAN (Macho Uno) before breaking a vertebra in a spill on February 18, was visited by the colt's majority owner Dean Reeves. During an emotional visit, Reeves presented Coa with a check for $18,000. The sum signified the amount of money Coa would have received had he been aboard Mucho Macho Man for his victory February 19 in the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds.
Reeves made the presentation to Coa at Memorial Regional Hospital while accompanied by Gulfstream's VP of Racing, Tim Ritvo.
"It was pretty emotional," Reeves said Friday afternoon at Gulfstream Park. "It was all I could do to tell him what we were doing. Eibar had tears in his eyes; Tim and I were watery eyed.
"I thought after the Risen Star about Eibar and how he was still very much a part of this team. Eibar did so much to set this colt up for his victory in the Risen Star. Not to take anything away from Rajiv (Maragh), who rode Mucho Macho Man to victory in the Risen Star. He did a great job. But we didn't want Eibar to think he was forgotten or not part of the team."
Reeves said visiting Coa was "very encouraging."
"Eibar was in great spirits," he said. "He was very positive and he's very determined. He could move his arm and he could actually push his left leg up. His right leg was a little weaker, but you could see him contracting his muscles in his knee. You could see how much he had improved in just a week."
This isn't the first time Reeves had helped the Thoroughbred community. When local flooding destroyed the living quarters of grooms on Gulfstream's backstretch last winter, Reeves stepped in and had 80 new mattresses delivered the following morning to Gulfstream.
"This is an exceptional individual who didn't want any publicity from this, but it's something worthy of mentioning," Ritvo said.