Kentucky Derby pedigree profile: Instant Coffee

November 28th, 2022

If anyone was surprised to see Instant Coffee produce a fast-finishing victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs, they shouldn’t have been. The talented two-year-old has always had the pedigree to shine as an early-maturing Road to the Kentucky Derby contender.

A subsequent stretch-running triumph in the Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds has reiterated Instant Coffee's standing as a major player on the Derby scene.

Instant Coffee hails from the first crop of foals sired by Bolt d’Oro, whose excellent two-year-old campaign produced victories in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and FrontRunner (G1) plus a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). Bolt d’Oro maintained his momentum early in his sophomore season, beating the talented McKinzie via disqualification in the San Felipe (G2) before finishing second to future Triple Crown winner Justify in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).

Bolt d’Oro subsequently lost his form with a 12th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and an 11th-place try against older rivals in the Metropolitan H. (G1), his final two starts. But Bolt d’Oro is resurrecting his reputation with a hot start at stud, rising to the top of the first-crop sire rankings thanks to the exploits of Instant Coffee, Pilgrim (G2) winner Major Dude, and With Anticipation (G3) hero Boppy O.

One might conclude Bolt d’Oro’s early-maturing racing profile means his foals will follow a similar path, burning bright as juveniles before losing their way at age three. But the pedigree evidence suggests otherwise. Bolt d’Oro is a son of Medaglia d’Oro out of the A.P. Indy mare Globe Trot, which is a pedigree geared toward stamina plus success in the spring classics and beyond.

Indeed, Medaglia d’Oro ran second in the Belmont (G1) before adding a trio of Grade 1 wins to his resume and is the sire of 2009 Horse of the Year and Preakness (G1) winner Rachel Alexandra. Meanwhile, A.P. Indy won the Belmont and is a renowned source of stamina counting Preakness winner Bernardini and Belmont heroine Rags to Riches among his foals.

Getting back to Instant Coffee, the dam side of his pedigree is remarkably similar to the top half. He’s the first foal produced by Follow No One, a winner running long on dirt and turf who also displayed enough speed to run third in the seven-furlong Alma North S. at Laurel Park.

Follow No One is a daughter of Uncle Mo, whose brilliance as a juvenile even exceeded that of Bolt d’Oro. Uncle Mo went 3-for-3 at age two, winning the Champagne (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on his way to earning champion two-year-old male honors. And much like Bolt d’Oro, Uncle Mo struggled a bit as a sophomore, missing the Triple Crown with a health issue before returning to win the Kelso H. (G2) and run second in the King’s Bishop (G1).

But Uncle Mo has been phenomenal as a stallion. His first crop of foals produced champion two-year-old and Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, and subsequent crops have tossed up such varied stars as Belmont winner Mo Donegal and Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) hero Golden Pal.

The majority of Uncle Mo’s best runners have achieved their greatest successes running long, including Apple Blossom H. (G1) winner Unbridled Mo, Hollywood Derby (G1) winners Mo Forza and Mo Town, Wood Memorial (G1) winner Outwork, and the Grade 1-winning juveniles Bast, Dream Tree, and Gomo. But they’re less picky about racing surfaces; many have starred on dirt, but Uncle Mo is nevertheless one of North America’s leading sires of grass runners.

This is actually a common thread throughout the pedigree of Instant Coffee. Bolt d’Oro is turning out to be a surprising source of turf prowess, with Major Dude and Boppy O securing graded wins on grass… Follow No One won on both dirt and turf… Uncle Mo sires major winners across both surfaces… and Medaglia d’Oro counts Hong Kong grass superstar Golden Sixty and Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) winner Talismanic among his best runners.

The takeaway? Instant Coffee is bred to run long and parlay his juvenile success into a productive sophomore season, so there’s no reason to think he can’t vie for victory in the Kentucky Derby. But if things don’t work out on the first Saturday in May, Instant Coffee has the pedigree to switch gears and reimagine himself as a grass horse.