Kentucky Jockey Club
Instant Coffee franked the solid form out of the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) with a brave rallying victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs.
Fourth behind subsequent Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Forte in the Breeders’ Futurity, Instant Coffee started as the 3-2 favorite and followed his usual pattern of settling off the speed, though his supporters had reason to be a little worried given the slow fractions.
But jockey Luis Saez brought the son of Bolt d’Oro wide on the final turn, and he wore down his opponents down the stretch, getting up by 1 1⁄4 lengths.
The victory earned Instant Coffee 10 points in the Road to the 2023 Kentucky Derby series, taking the Brad Cox trainee’s total to 12 following his Breeders’ Futurity fourth.
Iroquois (G3) winner Curly Jack, backing up three weeks after finishing fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, stuck on best of the on-pace runners to finish second and earn a further four points, taking his tally to 17. Iroquois fourth-place finisher Hayes Strike went one better here to take third, finishing solidly after bobbling at the start, earning three points to take his tally to five.
Breeders’ Futurity third-place finisher Red Route One took the same position in this race, earning another two points to take his overall tally to four, while Denington rallied late to take fifth and earn one point.
By Alastair Bull
One of two Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races held at Churchill Downs, the historic Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) offers promising juveniles an opportunity to gain racing experience over the Derby’s host track.
That’s just one of the benefits available to young runners tackling this 1 1⁄16-mile race, held every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The Kentucky Jockey Club also offers a rich purse and 10 Kentucky Derby qualification points to the winner, making it a lucrative target for late-maturing juveniles with an eye on the spring classics.
The Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes dates all the way back to 1920, and the inaugural edition remains one of the strongest ever run. On a sunny afternoon at Churchill Downs, champion 2-year-old Tryster defeated future Hall of Famer Grey Lag and 1921 Kentucky Derby winner Behave Yourself in a battle of top-class racing talent.
Three more Kentucky Derby winners contested the Kentucky Jockey Club during the next decade, with Reigh Count (1927-28), Clyde Van Dusen (1928-29), and Twenty Grand (1930-31) winning both races to cement the Kentucky Jockey Club’s position as a key steppingstone toward the first Saturday in May.
But the race wasn’t run between 1939 and 1945, and when it returned to the agenda in 1946, its momentum had been lost. Nearly three decades passed before the Kentucky Jockey Club turned up another Derby winner. Cannonade appropriately completed the double in 1973-74, restoring the Kentucky Jockey Club to prominence with his upset victory in the much-heralded 100th Kentucky Derby.
In 1980, the Kentucky Jockey Club was lengthened from one mile to its present 1 1⁄16-mile distance. Its graded stakes status shifted through the years, finally settling at Grade 2 in 1998, the same year Real Quiet parlayed a third-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club into victory in the Kentucky Derby.
Three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey and Hall of Fame inductee Calvin Borel has been among the most successful riders in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, scoring four victories between 2000 and 2014. His most significant triumph came in 2009 aboard Super Saver, who prevailed in the stakes-record time of 1:42.83. The following year, Borel and Super Saver executed a bold ground-saving ride to win the Kentucky Derby.
In 2019, the purse of the Kentucky Jockey Club was boosted to a record $300,000, double the amount offered as recently as 2013. With this hefty purse in tow, an increasing number of high-class horses figure to use the Kentucky Jockey Club as a prep for the first Saturday in May.
By J. Keeler Johnson
|8||Instant Coffee 3-2||$5.08||$2.98||$2.40|
|1||Curly Jack 5-2||$3.60||$2.46|
|7||Hayes Strike 22-1||$5.22|
|5||Red Route One 9-1|