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Instant Coffee Returns to Stakes in Oaklawn Handicap

The colt makes his first start for trainer Jose D'Angelo.

Instant Coffee wins the 2022 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs

Instant Coffee wins the 2022 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs

Coady Photography

Once considered an early favorite on the 2023 Kentucky Derby (G1) trail, Instant Coffee returns to graded stakes company for the first time in more than a year as he faces 10 competitors in the 1 1/8-mile $1.25 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) at Oaklawn Park April 20.

The son of Bolt d'Oro  had a hot career start. After a debut victory at Saratoga Race Course, he finished fourth behind eventual champion 2-year-old male Forte , Loggins , and multiple graded stakes winner Red Route One in the 2022 Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland before impressively taking the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs to end his 2-year-old season.

Starting his 3-year-old campaign at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, Instant Coffee defeated eventual 2023 Kentucky Derby runner-up Two Phil's  with a 2 1/2-length victory in the Lecomte Stakes (G3) to cement himself as a leading contender during prep season for the first Saturday in May. However, it was not to be as he ran a dull sixth in the Louisiana Derby (G2) before being put on the shelf for 11 months.

Formerly trained by Brad Cox, Instant Coffee emerged in the barn on Brittany Russell in a Feb. 17 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park. Pinched back to last at the start, the now 4-year-old colt swung wide and rallied well to finish third, beaten 4 1/4 lengths.

Video: Race 10 (AOC) at GP on 2/17/24

He again switches barns as he is now under the care of Jose D'Angelo. Gold Square has owned the colt throughout his career to the tune of $460,115 in earnings.

In His Path

In his path are several horses that have displayed talent, but are not the most consistent at getting to the wire first.

  • Red Route One won the New Orleans Classic Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds March 23, marking his first victory since the 2023 West Virginia Derby (G3) last August. The 4-year-old Gun Runner  colt likes to come from off the pace.
  • "Obviously, very nice win in New Orleans last time out," Hall of Fame trainer Asmussen said. "This is a very good opportunity for him. Keeps moving forward."
  • Skippylongstocking can be a reckoning force on his best day, as he was March 9 with a 2 1/2-length win in the Challenger Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs. However, he can also be puzzling, as he was Jan. 27 when he was pulled up on the backstretch during the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) at Gulfstream. Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. later stated he believed his charge overheated that day. 
  • Reincarnate returned from a four-month layoff March 3 at Santa Anita Park where he ran a strong third in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1). Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is hot at Oaklawn, having won the Arkansas Derby (G1) with Muth and the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) with Adare Manor in the last few weeks.
  • “He’s been up there before," Baffert said of Oaklawn. "He shows up every time. I think it’s a good spot. I think he will fit with those horses."
  • Octane has been in great form recently. An eight-time winner from 18 starts, the 5-year-old Brethren  gelding earned his first graded victory last time out in Oaklawn's Razorback Handicap (G3) Feb. 24.

The Oaklawn Handicap is race 11 with post time at 5:52 p.m. CT.

Two other stakes are on the card, including the $200,000 Bath House Row Stakes, which awards its winner automatic entry into the May 18 Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course.

Entries: Oaklawn H. (G2)

Oaklawn Park, Saturday, April 20, 2024, Race 11

  • Grade II
  • 1 1/8m
  • Dirt
  • $1,250,000
  • 4 yo's & up
  • 5:52 PM (local)
PPHorseJockeyWgtTrainerM/L
11Highland Falls (KY)Florent Geroux118Brad H. Cox9/2
22Double Crown (MD)Colby J. Hernandez115Raymond E. Ginter, Jr.30/1
33Magic Tap (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateKeith J. Asmussen118Steven M. Asmussen10/1
44Octane (FL)Julien R. Leparoux120Juan Alvarado5/1
55Red Route One (KY)Joel Rosario120Steven M. Asmussen7/2
66Reincarnate (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJuan J. Hernandez119Bob Baffert4/1
77Guntown (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateRamon A. Vazquez115Michael J. Maker20/1
88Last Samurai (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateRichard E. Eramia118Eddie Milligan, Jr.20/1
99County Final (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateEdwin Gonzalez116Saffie A. Joseph, Jr.15/1
1010Skippylongstocking (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJose L. Ortiz122Saffie A. Joseph, Jr.3/1
1111Instant Coffee (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateCristian A. Torres119Jose Francisco D'Angelo15/1