Is Instant Coffee Strong Enough To Conquer The Kentucky Derby?

Churchill Downs Racetrack stock photography

Saturday, May 6, is a date that all U.S. racing fans will have pencilled in their diaries, as the 2023 edition of the Kentucky Derby is set. The race is already beginning to take shape, as many of the leading contenders have already taken to the track to strut their stuff and earn qualification points to assure their spot in the race. 

Brad Cox once again looks to hold a strong hand for the race at Churchill Downs this year, as the trainer goes in search of a second victory in the Derby in three years. 

But, could Instant Coffee continue the form he is showing on the road to the 2023 Kentucky Derby Prep Races and be the standout contender in the Cox yard at this early stage?

Debut Success

Instant Coffee was a very short price on debut at Saratoga last September, and he immediately looked to be a contender that looked primed for a big future. He sped clear of the chasing pack to finish clear of Arthur’s Ride, and recorded a speed rating of 94 in the process. 

However, he wasn’t able to back up that debut victory after being stepped into graded company for the first time on his next start. 

The G1 Breeders’ Futurity offered a very early look at some of the likely contenders for the Derby, but in truth, it was a better bearing for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, which was also taking place at Keeneland a month later. Instant Coffee started slowly in the race, and left himself with too much to do. Forte was the winner, and would later claim victory in the Juvenile to solidify that form.

First Graded Win

Instead of competing at the Breeders’ Cup, the decision was made to bypass the Juvenile in favour of a run in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs. It was a brave decision by connections, but one that was ultimately vindicated when Instant Coffee landed a first graded victory. 

The win over Curly Jack scored a moderate speed figure of 82, but just getting a first win in that company highlighted his clear class. The fact that he also now has previous winning experience around Churchill Downs will be a big plus for many come Derby day, but there will still be work to be done if he is to make it to the race at Churchill Downs in May. 

Standout Win

Instant Coffee began his three-year-old campaign at Fair Grounds, and he made his impression count at the track in the G3 Lecomte Stakes. The race over 1 1/16 miles was a wide-open event in the betting, with both Two Phil’s and Echo Again posing serious questions. 

Nonetheless, Instant Coffee was much the best of them on that day, as he produced a career-best performance to streak clear and register a speed figure of 93. 

That was his best rating since his debut win over seven furlongs, and for the first time there was evidence that the extended trip could suit. The form could yet be handed a boost before Instant Coffee takes to the track again, as Two Phil’s is set to line-up in a very competitive renewal of the G2 Risen Star Stakes toward the end of February.

Could Instant Coffee Win The Kentucky Derby?

So far, we have seen little to dismiss Instant Coffee’s chances of victory in the Kentucky Derby. But, he will still have a lot to prove. 

The coming months will help determine whether the Cox horse is a Grade 1 or Grade 2 horse, as he will face a much stiffer assignment when he takes on proven rivals in the G2 Louisiana Derby in March. But, at this point, as bet on Instant Coffee at 25/1 shouldn’t be dismissed.