Instant Coffee drives past Two Phil’s to win the Lecomte (Hodges Photography)
By Laura Pugh
The first of the second stage of preps on the Road to the Roses, the Lecomte Stakes, was annexed this weekend by none other than Instant Coffee.
The late-running son of Bolt D’Oro made a relentless run from last to first to capture his second graded stakes in a row. The Brad Cox trainee has now improved his record to three wins in four tries, and in doing so, made quite the impression last Saturday.
Despite his performance, I still hesitate to fully trust the colt as a legitimate Kentucky Derby threat.
It’s true that Instant Coffee has a relentless stretch kick that just grinds away at his opponents. It doesn’t matter how far back he is; it doesn’t matter how wide he is. He just keeps coming until he hits the front. That is, until he is forced to run in traffic or against top competition, like the Breeder’s Futurity last year.
In that race, Instant Coffee faced off against Forte and Loggins. He ran into some traffic that day, which allowed the aforementioned two to build up a large lead. He took his shot once in the clear, and made a strong bid for third, but never threatened the top pair and eventually lost the show to a faster-finishing foe.
Saturday, the place horse, Two Phil’s, one of his chief competitors, he’s already bested before. His other top competitor, Echo Again was pulled up in the stretch due to a locking stifle. The final time, nor the final split were overly impressive either, recording at 1:45.12 for 1 1/16th miles and 6.79 seconds for the final 1/16th.
This indicates a pace collapse, which occurs during a strong pace that tires the leaders and anyone close to it. This causes those horses to back up, giving the impression of an impressive close, if there is a closer good enough to take advantage of it. This is what happened in the Lecomte with Instant Coffee. His kick was made to look better than it was due to the pace meltdown in front of him.
When the top horses start returning for the third and fourth waves of Kentucky Derby preps, and the fields start growing, I feel like we will start to see more of the Instant Coffee that finished fourth in the Breeders’ Futurity.
This will make it more difficult to earn the points needed to secure a spot in the Kentucky Derby. It will still be possible, especially if he runs in enough preps and manages to hit the board, however, I believe it is doubtful that, if he makes it to Kentucky Derby gates, that he enters as one of the top contenders.