Instant Coffee saved his best for deep stretch in Saturday’s $399,625 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs, wearing down opponents to win the Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifier by 1 1/4 lengths. Now 2-for-3 for Al Gold’s Gold Square LLC, the Brad Cox-trained colt was ridden by Luis Saez.
The son of freshman sire Bolt d’Oro was exiting a rallying fourth in the Oct. 8 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland, which was captured by presumptive two-year-old champion Forte. Off as the 1.54-1 favorite among nine juveniles, Instant Coffee finished 1 1/16 miles in the 1:45.45.
“This is one of the biggest reasons why we do this – to be on the Road to the Kentucky Derby,” Cox said. “We’re extremely proud of this colt to win like that in just his third start. He really does whatever you ask of him in the morning. It was a pretty slow pace but Luis kept after him and he was able to keep grinding out the win.”
The Kentucky Jockey Club awarded points on a 10-4-3-2-1 scale to the top five finishers toward a berth in the 2023 Kentucky Derby.
The final time was more than a second slower than Hoosier Philly’s win in the Golden Rod (G2) for two-year-old fillies one race earlier on the program, but the pace was much slower in the Kentucky Jockey Club, as Gigante sped forward at the break to show the way through glacial splits in :24.76 and :50.
Instant Coffee didn’t break smoothly from post 8 and traveled wide into the first turn before eventually getting to the two path, stalking the pace near the back of a compact field through the opening stages. He began to advance on the far turn, reaching a threatening position by the conclusion of the bend, and was floated widest of all into the stretch.
Cyclone Mischief seized the lead while straightening for home, but he was under serious pressure from a host of challengers. Curly Jack loomed a threat on the inside, and Red Route One was seeking room between foes after being stymied repeatedly in traffic.
Instant Coffee eventually got the better of his rivals, advancing on the far outside to strike the front and edge away under the wire.
“He broke a little bit slow today so we got behind the pace,” said Saez, who won six races on the program. “I was a little worried because they weren’t really going fast at all up front and I was pretty wide. I could tell around the far turn my horse was trying very hard and I was very confident in him. We were able to make a big run into the lane and he kept finding more. He’s a young horse who’s just getting started and figuring things out.”
Grade 3 winner Curly Jack, the 5-2 second choice following a fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), surged for second after altering paths in the stretch, winding up a neck better than Hayes Strike in third. Red Route One settled for fourth after a troubled trip, and Denington, Gigante, Cyclone Mischief, Freedom Trail, and Western Ghent came next under the wire.
Instant Coffee still has something to prove against deeper competition, but he commendably earned his first stakes win on Saturday.
Purchased for $200,000 at last year’s Keeneland September yearling sale, the dark bay was bred in Kentucky by Sagamore Farm, and he’s the first foal to race from the stakes-placed Uncle Mo mare Follow No One. His second maternal dam is by Belmont S. (G1) winner Empire Maker, and Instant Coffee appears built for two turns.