Welcome to 2023 Kentucky Derby Prospect Snapshots, where we’ll take a look each week at a recent winner on the Triple Crown trail, usually from the Road to the Kentucky Derby schedule from which the racehorses earn points toward qualifying.
The 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve will be held May 6, 2023, at Churchill Downs.
This week, we’ll take a closer look at Instant Coffee, winner of the $399,625 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on Nov. 26 at Churchill.
Instant Coffee earned 10 points toward qualifying for the 2023 Kentucky Derby with that win and moved into fourth place on the latest Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 12 points.
Racing Résumé: Following a debut win at Saratoga Race Course in September, Instant Coffee finished fourth, seven lengths behind winner Forte, in the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity Oct. 8 at Keeneland. Instant Coffee subsequently was flattered when Forte won the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Juvenile presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance by 1 ½ lengths in a dominant effort Nov. 4 at Keeneland.
Sent off as the 3-2 favorite for his third start Nov. 26 at Churchill Downs in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, Instant Coffee met expectations with a 1 ¼-length win from off the pace to improve to two wins in three starts and earn a breakthrough stakes victory.
The Kentucky Jockey Club pace was very slow early in the 1 1/16-mile race, which led to a relatively slow final time of 1:45.25; however, Instant Coffee was still able to make up ground despite the lack of pace and a wide trip. The Bolt d’Oro colt completed the final sixteenth of a mile in 6.23 seconds according to Trakus data, which followed a quarter-mile in 23.75 seconds that propelled Instant Coffee into contention in the race.
Speed Figures: The slow time for the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes led to a decline in Equibase Speed Figure for Instant Coffee. He earned an 89 Equibase Speed Figure for his career debut and a 94 when fourth in the Breeders’ Futurity, but the Kentucky Jockey Club win earned only a 79. Instant Coffee had earned mid-80s Beyer Speed Figures for his first two starts and his pace-adjusted figure for the Kentucky Jockey Club was a slight step back to an 82. Simply put, while the Kentucky Jockey Club was a breakthrough win for Instant Coffee, from a speed-figure perspective it was not a breakout effort.
Running Style: Through three starts, Instant Coffee has shown a preference for closing from off the pace in his races. In the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, the lack of pace did not hurt him, but tactical speed has become increasingly important in recent years in the Kentucky Derby.
Closers not only depend on other horses to dictate both pace and how a race shapes up, they also must navigate a path from the back of the pack to the front in a field of up to 20 horses on Derby day. Rich Strike was able to manage that in 2022, but before that the last true closer to cross the finish line first was Orb in 2013, although Country House did win from off the pace via DQ of pacesetter Maximum Security in 2019.
Connections: Al Gold’s Gold Square owns Instant Coffee, a colt he purchased for $200,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September yearling sale. Gold Square is very likely familiar to Kentucky Derby fans as the owner of Cyberknife, the 2022 Arkansas Derby and TVG.com Haskell Stakes winner that Gold named after the life-saving tool that helped him overcome prostate cancer.
Two-time Eclipse Award winner Brad Cox earned his first win in a Triple Crown race with Essential Quality in the 2021 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets. Cox later added a win by Mandaloun in the 2021 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve after Medina Spirit was disqualified for a medication violation. The trainer earned his ninth win in the Breeders’ Cup this year when Caravel won the Turf Sprint.
Jockey Luis Saez won his sixth race on the card Nov. 26 at Churchill when he guided Instant Coffee to victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club. Saez rode the aforementioned Essential Quality to victory in the 2021 Belmont Stakes for Cox and has ranked in the top 10 among North American jockey by both earnings and wins every year since 2017.
Pedigree Notes: Instant Coffee is from the first crop of Bolt d’Oro, a Grade 1 winner around two turns as a 2-year-old and a graded stakes winner around two turns as a 3-year-old. Bolt d’Oro, by stamina influence Medaglia d’Oro, is off to a promising start in his second career as a stallion with Instant Coffee joining Major Dude and Boppy O as graded stakes winners from his initial crop of runners.
Stakes-placed winner Follow No One, by Uncle Mo, is the dam (mother) of Instant Coffee. Follow No One, a winner at one mile and 70 yards, was produced my multiple stakes winner and multiple stakes producer Miss Red Delicious, by Empire Maker, from the family of multiple graded stakes winner Lady Apple, the third-place finisher in the 2019 Longines Kentucky Oaks.
Derby Potential: Cox plans to ship Instant Coffee to Fair Grounds to prepare for the road to the Kentucky Derby. This colt needs to show in New Orleans that he can run significantly faster, which is a realistic possibility given that he has only three starts to date and there are several reasons for optimism – Instant Coffee has a graded stakes win on the host track of the first jewel of the Triple Crown, outstanding connections, and a pedigree that lends some hope that he can continue to excel as races get longer.
I won’t be rushing to Las Vegas to place a future wager on Instant Coffee in the coming weeks, but he profiles as a very nice prospect worth tracking.