March 2, 2021

Instagrand captures the imagination

Instagrand established himself as a towering presence in the two-year-old division before heading to the sidelines in September © BENOIT PHOTO

Instagrand created a buzz with a 10-length debut win at Los Alamitos in late June and the two-year-old looks like the next big thing in Thoroughbred racing after romping by 10 ¼ lengths in Saturday’s Best Pal Stakes (G2) at Del Mar.

He’s not only crushing the competition; Instagrand registered a 100 BRIS Speed rating, a number that compares favorably to triple-digit figures earned in the second start by three of the last four Kentucky Derby winners. The bay son of Into Mischief also netted a 103 Late Pace rating for the wire-to-wire decision, blitzing the final quarter-mile of the six-furlong Best Pal in :23.73.

Those are huge juvenile numbers for August. By comparison, Call Paul earned a 93 Speed winning Sunday’s Saratoga Special (G2) and Sombeyay received an 89 for his Sanford (G3) victory earlier in the Saratoga meet.

Purchased for $1.2 million by Larry Best’s OXO Equine, Instagrand is being pointed toward the $300,000 Del Mar Futurity (G1) at seven furlongs on September 3. Drayden Van Dyke rides the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained colt and Instagrand left the Best Pal starting gate as the 1-9 favorite.

He brings back memories of Nyquist, who improved to two-for-two and earned a 102 Speed rating when dominating the 2015 Best Pal. The Doug O’Neill-trained colt went on to earn champion two-year-old male honors and remained perfect through the Kentucky Derby.

And when it comes to flashy juvenile performers, Uncle Mo also rates as a standard-bearer. The eventual champion won his debut by 14 ¼ lengths on the 2010 Travers Day undercard and continued to run the competition off their feet posting stylish victories in the Champagne (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).

Instagrand appears built from the same cloth at this point in his career.

“Cadillac” is a description given by Van Dyke, who added about the exciting performer: “He’s got the mind of a four- or five-year-old. Professional.”