Kentucky Derby Report: Lecomte big test for Instant Coffee

January 19th, 2023

Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) winner Instant Coffee is one 11 individuals listed for trainer Brad Cox in Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which features 40 wagering interests and will be offered Friday-Sunday, and his performance in Saturday’s Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds will determine his closing odds.

Point values on Road to the Kentucky Derby series increase for the 1 1/16-mile Lecomte, and Instant Coffee has been installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite among eight runners. By leading freshman sire Bolt d’Oro, the late runner appears built for longer distances and has won 2-of-3 starts, but the dark bay has yet to run fast.

Instant Coffee registered 88 and 84 Brisnet Speed ratings in the last two outings, recording a fourth in the Breeders’ Futurity before a 1 1/4-length triumph in the Kentucky Jockey Club. Granted, there were extenuating circumstances, as he raced too far back in the early stages of the Breeders’ Futurity after failing to break and experienced a less-than-favorable trip in the Kentucky Jockey Club last out.

He didn’t get out of the gate well in the juvenile finale, coming under a ride on the first turn, and rated behind glacial fractions (six furlongs in 1:15). Instant Coffee responded to Luis Saez leaving the backstretch, utilizing a sweeping move on the far turn and into the stretch to get up late, and I’ve got him pegged as a classy colt who is eligible to advance significantly at age three.

Instant Coffee will look to keep progressing against a solid but relatively unproven cast in the Lecomte. Two Phil’s, the early 4-1 second choice, is the most accomplished, winning the Street Sense S. by 5 1/4 widening lengths over a sloppy track at Churchill Downs when last seen in late October. Larry Rivelli trains the chestnut Hard Spun colt, and Two Phil’s likes to race up close to the pace with regular rider Jareth Loveberry.

Echo Again, third in the Springboard Mile in mid-December, is the projected pacesetter from the rail. The gray son of Gun Runner has always been well-regarded for Steve Asmussen, impressively winning his career debut over 6 1/2 furlongs at Saratoga, but Echo Again has yet to carry his speed two turns in a pair of stakes attempts.

Cox also has Tapit’s Conquest, a romping maiden winner under the Twin Spires in his last appearance, but the chestnut colt is cross-entered to an undercard allowance. Last-out allowance scorer Confidence Game has potential, Bromley invades after opening his career with a Churchill maiden tally and a convincing allowance win at Turfway, and Smarty Jones third Denington will try to flatter Victory Formation.

Recent results

The Jan. 7 Jerome at Aqueduct awarded 10 points to the winner, and Lugan Knight switched tactics and led wire-to-wire over a one-turn mile. From a speed-oriented female pedigree, the son of Goldencents colt confirmed himself as a promising sprint/middle-distance type, and Lugan Knight will stick to one-turn races for the Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct on March 4.

Reincarnate, an up-and-coming colt by Good Magic, may be in the mix for the final two legs of the Triple Crown following a game win in the Jan. 7 Sham (G3) at Santa Anita, but the top three finishers are ineligible to earn points toward the Derby since they’re trained by Bob Baffert.

Champagne (G1) runner-up Verifying, sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), returned to the races with a sharp win over allowance rivals at Oaklawn Park last Saturday, generating a 95 Speed rating for the 5 1/4-length decision over a two-turn mile. Cox has been bullish on the Justify colt, and Verifying counts champion Midnight Bisou as a half-brother.

Shopper’s Reward, who was exiting a runner-up finish at Churchill in his career debut, stretched to two turns and graduated stylishly at Oaklawn Saturday, romping wire-to-wire by a 5 1/4-length margin. Out of Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) winner and $3 million earner Stopchargingmaria, the gray Tapit colt will be one to watch for Steve Asmussen.

Kingsbarns caught the eye at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, rallying from just off the pace to win a seven-furlong maiden special weight going away by nearly two lengths. A $800,000 two-year-old purchase by Uncle Mo, Kingsbarns provides two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher with another prospect.

Up Next

I’ll recap the Lecomte and preview the Jan. 28 Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn.