Keeneland's Lexington Stakes Announces Contenders and Odds for 4/16/22

Trainer Brad Cox will send out Tawny Port in the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes. (Coady Photography)
Post PositionHorse and Morning Line Odds
1Midnight Chrome (20-1)
2In Due Time (3-1)
3We All See It (15-1)
4Ethereal Road (10-1)
5Howling Time (15-1)
6Skate to Heaven (30-1)
7Major General (4-1)
8Strava (20-1)
9Tawny Port (5-2)
10Dash Attack (10-1)
11Call Me Midnight (6-1)

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Cox Seeking More Points, Experience for Tawny Port in Lexington Stakes

It wasn’t all that long ago when the course of action trainer Brad Cox decided on regarding his charge Tawny Port would have been the norm and not the exception.

Two weeks after running second in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) at Turfway Park, Tawny Port is set to return to the starting gate in the April 16 Lexington Stakes (G3) at Keeneland. And should the son of Pioneerof the Nile perform well enough this weekend, he’ll have another race date on his agenda in three weeks when the Kentucky Derby (G1) goes to post on May 7.

While potentially cramming three races into a six-week period flies in the face of what most conditioners will attempt in this day and age, Cox is taking a page out of an old school playbook in hopes of bolstering his roster for the first leg of the Triple Crown.

“Look, horses used to run all the time back in two or three weeks and now we don’t see that,” the two-time reigning Eclipse Award winner said. “It’s kind of totally thinking out of the box now…but years ago, horse would run in the Derby Trial the week before and then wheel back in the Derby.”

The relatively quick turnaround is something Cox hopes will give Tawny Port both the qualifying points and experience he needs as the dark bay colt was installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite in the field of 11 for the 1 1/16-miles Lexington Stakes this Saturday.

The Lexington Stakes will offer the top four finishers Kentucky Derby qualifying points on a 20-8-4-2 scale. While Peachtree Stable’s Tawny Port does hold the current No. 20 cutoff position to make the starting gate, his 40 points are tied with Messier, Zozos, Summer Is Tomorrow and Charge It with the tie breaker being non-restricted graded stakes earnings.

“Two months ago, people were talking about horses maybe getting in with maybe no points but now I’m not sure 40 points will get you in,” Cox said. “I can’t remember a year when 40 didn’t get you in, it’s normally a good number. But the Lexington could play a role in someone either getting in or getting kicked out.”

The Lexington will mark the fifth career start for Tawny Port and his second try over a dirt surface. He won his first two starts over the synthetic track at Turfway before finishing fifth in the Feb. 19 Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds.

In the Jeff Ruby Steaks, he was beaten 2 ¼-lengths by race winner Tiz the Bomb and Cox feels another run before a potential Derby start will give him a true baseline on where Tawny Port fits into the sophomore picture.

“He’s only had one run on dirt and we would like to get another run and more experience,” Cox said.

Tawny Port is set to break from post No. 9 on Saturday with Florent Geroux in the irons.

Among those also trying to gain Kentucky Derby qualifying points is the Kelly Breen-trained In Due Time. The son of Not This Time most recently finished second in the March 5 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and scored an allowance win at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 4.

Call Me Midnight, winner of the Jan. 22 Lecomte Stakes (G3) heads into the Lexington looking to rebound off a sixth-place finish in the Louisiana Derby (G2) on March 26. The Keith Desormeaux trainee will break from the outside post No. 11 with James Graham up.

Major General captured the Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs last September but disappointed during his seasonal bow in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), finishing tenth. Rebel Stakes (G2) runner-up Ethereal Road is making the quickest turnaround having crossed the wire seventh in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) last Saturday.