Keeneland's Lexington Stakes Results and Payouts for 4/16/22

Tawny Port wins the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. (Coady Photography)
Lexington Stakes ResultsPayoffs - Win Place Show
1Tawny Port - $12.20; $6.40; $3.80
2Major General - $7.60; $4.80
3In Due Time - $2.80

Tawny Port Rallies to win Lexington Stakes

Three weeks ago, not a single horse in the barn of Brad Cox had a single qualifying point toward the May 7 Kentucky Derby (G1). Three weeks out from the 2022 edition of the first leg of the Triple Crown, the two-time Eclipse Award winner now has the happy problem of trying to find jockeys for all his classic contenders.

After running second in the April 2 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) over the synthetic surface at Turfway Park, Tawny Port stamped himself a viable contender for the first Saturday in May when he took charge from Major General inside the sixteenth pole and pulled clear to post a one-length victory in the $400,000 Lexington Stakes (G3) at Keeneland on April 16.

Though the defection of graded stakes winner Slow Down Andy from the potential Derby field ensured Tawny Port already had enough qualifying points to enter the starting gate for the 10-furlong test, Cox wanted the son of Pioneerof the Nile to get more experience and ensure he was ready to join stablemates Cyberknife and Zozos at Churchill Downs for the toughest race of their young lives.

The lightly-raced dark bay colt proved he was capable of moving forward when he advanced down the middle of the track under jockey Florent Geroux on Saturday en route to earning his first career win on dirt.

“It’s been a pretty good last few weeks with our Derby horses in the preps,” said Cox, who won the April 2 Arkansas Derby (G1) with Cyberknife and was second in the March 26 Louisiana Derby (G2) with Zozos. “I wasn’t surprised this horse ran well today. These horses do seem to run well off the synthetic. He did bounce out of (the Jeff Ruby) obviously in good shape and he had an easy work Monday at Churchill. He was full of himself.

“We found out this morning that he would get in regardless of the result today if he were to not run in this race but we planned for it, we prepared him for it and (owner) John Fort wanted to run. This is a good race. It’s a great race and we’re very happy to win it.”

Owned by Fort’s Peachtree Stable, Tawny Port won his first two career starts at Turfway before finishing fifth in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) over the main track at Fair Grounds on Feb. 19. Given that Epicenter and Zandon, the first and third-place finishers in the Risen Star, returned to capture the Louisiana Derby (G2) and Blue Grass Stakes (G1), respectively, Cox believed Tawny Port’s effort that day may have been better than the result suggested.

“His race at the Fair Grounds was good. I mean, he was up against arguably the two favorites right now,” Cox said. “It was probably the deepest Derby prep run this year and he was maybe 3-4 lengths off those horses in his first run on the dirt. I think he’s more of a polished horse mentally and physically now. He’s more mature than he was in February. He’s only going the right way.”

In Saturday's 1 1/16-miles Lexington Stakes, Major General led the field of 11 through fractions of :23.85, :48.01 and 1:12.45 while being tracked by Strava and Dash Attack with Tawny Port racing in midpack. Major General maintained the lead into the stretch, but Geroux had Tawny Port in the clear in coming wide and gradually wore down the leader.

“He needed the race. (The Risen Star) was his only (previous) start on the dirt (and the race) was definitely the key (prep for) the Kentucky Derby (G1),” Geroux said. “It looked like every horse who ran in there all came back and ran some very strong races, so we were hoping to do the same thing. (Tawny Port did) that today, in a very powerful way at the high end on the dirt. Looks like the distance should be no problem.”

Tawny Port completed the distance in 1:45.24 over a track rated fast while boosting his points total to 60, good for 11th place on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. Major General held for second with In Due Time coming home third.

In posting his first graded stakes victory, Tawny Port improved his record to 5-3-1-0 and boosted his earnings to $427,000 with Saturday’s $229,400 check.

“We’ll see how he comes out of the race, but (the Derby) is Plan A,” Cox said of Tawny Port. “Right now, that is the plan to march forward to the Derby.”

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