Considering what’s on the line in Saturday’s Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, those of you who like betting horses based on their names have the perfect choice sitting there.
In Due Time.
This would be a fine time for In Due Time, the 3/1 second choice in the 11-colt Lexington, to win the final Kentucky Derby prep. That would bring 20 points and a possible — albeit not guaranteed — spot in the 20-horse May 7 Derby.
He has plenty of company. The Lexington Stakes is the final stop on the Derby trail, a 1 1/16-mile do-or-die test for several of the horses chasing the 20-8-4-2 Derby points. This explains the presence of several colts you wouldn’t expect to see otherwise.
Tawny Port comes back on two weeks rest
Colts like Tawny Port, the 5/2 favorite. He sits on top of the bubble with 40 points, courtesy of his runner-up finish to Tiz the Bomb in the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park. If the Derby began today, Tawny Port would have the 20th and final spot.
But bubbles often pop, which explains why trainer Brad Cox sends Tawny Port back out two weeks after his runner-up on the Turfway Park synthetic. Any top-four finish likely puts Tawny Port in the Derby field. But should he miss, his connections can look back to a brutal fifth-place finish in the Grade 2 Risen Star — his only start on dirt.
Compared to Ethereal Road (10/1), Tawny Port is well-rested. Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas is probably the only “name” conditioner in this day and age audacious enough to wheel a horse back on one week’s rest. Yes, Ethereal Road rides back after finishing a weak seventh by 11 1/2 lengths in last week’s Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes.
Lukas knows this road very well
Before then, Ethereal Road finished a strong second in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes to 75/1 Un Ojo. He sits 29th with 20 points, meaning he needs a win to give himself a chance.
The same fate awaits In Due Time. He earned his 20 points with a second to Simplification in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth in early March. In Due Time hasn’t finished out of the money in four career starts (2-1-1). A 100 Equibase Speed Figure two starts ago illustrates he will be tough to beat barring any mishaps.
“We are going to let him do the talking,” trainer Kelly Breen told Keeneland’s Amy Owens. “If he gets beat a (narrow margin), I’m going to the Preakness. That’s at the top of my mind. If he gets beat 17 ½ lengths, we’ll fall back and regroup.”
Major General won the first 2022 Derby prep
Two others to watch are Major General (4/1) and Call Me Midnight (6/1). Major General broke out with wins in his first two races, including the Grade 3 Iroquois last September at Churchill Downs. But a miserable 10th and last by 25 lengths as the 4.30/1 second choice in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby led trainer Todd Pletcher to add blinkers here.
With 10 points, Major General needs a win and defections to get into the Derby.
Grade 3 Lexington Stakes/Keeneland
Morning Line (Jockey/Trainer)
- Midnight Chrome, 20/1 (Jose Ortiz/John Servis)
- In Due Time, 3/1 (Paco Lopez/Kelly Breen)
- We All See It, 15/1 (Luis Saez/Eddie Kenneally)
- Ethereal Road, 10/1 (Victor Espinoza/D Wayne Lukas)
- Howling Time, 15/1 (Joe Talamo/Dale Romans)
- Skate to Heaven, 30/1 (David Cohen/Robertino Diodoro)
- Major General, 4/1 (Irad Ortiz Jr./Todd Pletcher)
- Strava, 20/1 (Tyler Gaffalione/Dallas Stewart)
- Tawny Port, 5/2 (Florent Geroux/Brad Cox)
- Dash Attack, 10/1 (Flavien Prat/Kenny McPeek)
- Call Me Midnight, 6/1 (James Graham/Keith Desormeaux)
Call Me Midnight beat Epicenter two starts ago in January’s Grade 3 Lecomte at Fair Grounds. He regressed to sixth in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby in his next start. Racking up a 98 Equibase like he did in the Lecomte would put Call Me Midnight right in the mix here.
But his outside post means jockey James Graham has to be tactically perfect here to give the closer a shot. It’s a tough ask.
He too, comes in with 10 points and needing a win plus help to book a Derby starting spot.