April 21, 2024

Instant Coffee last to first in Lecomte

Instant Coffee perked up late in the Kentucky Jockey Club (Photo by Coady Photography)

Last seen swooping in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), Gold Square’s Instant Coffee was brimming with late energy again in Saturday’s $194,000 Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds. The 1.30-1 favorite underscored the depth and breadth of trainer Brad Cox’s three-year-old squad, amid Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager that runs through Sunday at 6 p.m. ET.

Instant Coffee was confidently handled by Luis Saez, who earlier guided the Cox-trained The Alys Look to victory in the companion Silverbulletday S. on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks. Unlike the filly with tactical speed, confirmed closer Instant Coffee was content to trail early.

Up front, Echo Again was rolling through fractions of :24.20, :47.19, and 1:12.02. The tracking Confidence Game inched nearer to prompt, but got overtaken by Two Phil’s swinging for home. Echo Again was still in the thick of the fray in upper stretch, when jockey Tyler Gaffalione sensed something amiss and carefully eased him out of the race.

Meanwhile, Two Phil’s struck the front, but by that point, Instant Coffee was waking up and gaining momentum. The outcome was certain; the only question was the margin. Storming clear in the final furlong, the dark bay crossed the wire a 2 1/2-length winner in a final time of 1:45.12 for 1 1/16 miles.

By top freshman sire Bolt d’Oro, Instant Coffee banked 20 more points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, propelling himself to second on the leaderboard with a total of 32. He is one of 11 Cox pupils available as individual interests in Pool 3. As of 9:30 p.m. ET Saturday night, Instant Coffee was bet down to 18-1 from a 40-1 morning line.

Two Phil’s took home his initial eight Derby points as the best of the rest by 5 1/2 lengths. Confidence Game checked in a one-paced third, good for six points to bump his tally to seven. Denington received four points in fourth, doubling his account to eight. Bromley got two points for finishing last of five.

Echo Again thankfully walked off the track. David Fiske, racing manager for Winchell Thoroughbreds, shared video of the colt walking in the barn as well as additional insight from Gaffalione.

Tapit’s Conquest, Cox’s other entrant, scratched in favor of the ninth race, where he came up a neck shy of catching front-running Determinedly. The time for the allowance over the same 1 1/16-mile distance was 1:45.26, close enough to the Lecomte to spur discussion.

Itzos, a stablemate of Bromley’s from the Paulo Lobo barn, opted to run in Saturday’s Leonatus S. at Turfway Park. The Bolt d’Oro colt, who is a three-quarter brother to Rachel Alexandra, faded to seventh behind the impressive Funtastic Again.

Instant Coffee is nearly flawless with a 3-for-4 record and $442,815 in earnings. The Saratoga debut winner sustained his only loss when fourth in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) to Forte, the next-out Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) hero and presumptive divisional champion. Instant Coffee progressed to take the Kentucky Jockey Club next time, and made it two straight in the Lecomte.

His success comes one year after the same Gold Square/Cox tandem saw their highly-regarded Cyberknife disappoint when only sixth in the Lecomte. Cyberknife regrouped to become one of the most prominent players of the 2022 classic crop, and he’ll try to go out on top in next Saturday’s Pegasus World Cup (G1). Instant Coffee, much more accomplished at this stage, brews up high hopes.

The next step on the trail at Fair Grounds is the Feb. 18 Risen Star (G2). Plans for the Cox phalanx figure to be fluid, however, as he has to deploy forces across the entire prep landscape.

Bred by Sagamore Farm in Kentucky, Instant Coffee brought $200,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. He is out of the stakes-placed Uncle Mo mare Follow No One, who is a half-sister to Grade 3 scorer Nootka Sound, from the family of multiple Grade 3 vixen Lady Apple. Further back, the female line descends, via a full sister to Affirmed, from Correction, a full sister to Domino.