Looking for additional evidence to justify continuing on to the May 7 Kentucky Derby (G1), the connections of Tawny Port got their answer Saturday in the $398,750 Lexington S. (G3) at Keeneland when the colt improved his position on the Derby leaderboard and won on dirt for the first time.
Runner-up in the Jeff Ruby (G3) at Turfway Park two weeks ago, when he earned 40 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, Tawny Port earned an additional 20 points winning the 1 1/16-mile Lexington under Florent Geroux by a rallying length after a wide trip.
Tawny Port is owned by the Peachtree Stable of John and Elizabeth Fort, whose most notable Kentucky Derby entry to date was Invisible Ink, who finished second to Monarchos in the 2001 Derby as a 55-1 outsider.
“This was John’s idea to come back in two weeks,” winning trainer Brad Cox said. “We watched him and he seemed to have a great energy level.”
Winner of his first two starts over Turfway’s Tapeta track, Tawny Port had finished fifth in his only previous start on dirt. That race was the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds in February, one of the key preps of the season thus far which included Epicenter, Smile Happy, and Zandon.
“There was a little bit of a question mark about how well he handled the dirt,” Cox said. “He ran well at Fair Grounds. Florent came back and had positive comments after that race.”
The 5-1 second choice in a field of 11 for the Lexington, Tawny Port returned $12.20 after completing one lap of the fast Keeneland strip in 1:45.24. Major General, who was hounded on the lead by Strava most of the way, finished second by 1 1/2 lengths over 19-10 favorite In Due Time. Ethereal Road finished fourth.
The order of finish was rounded out by Strava, Dash Attack, Midnight Chrome, Howling Time, Call Me Midnight, Skate to Heaven, and We All See It.
Tawny Port, who very well could join stablemates Cyberknife and Zozos in the Derby, now has 60 qualifying points. Major General earned eight points in the Lexington, boosting his total to 18. Fountain of Youth (G2) runner-up In Due Time and Rebel (G2) runner-up Ethereal Road increased their totals to 24 and 22 points, respectively, also well below the current cutoff point.
Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, Tawny Port sold for $430,000 at Keeneland September and has now bankrolled $427,000 from a line of 5-3-1-0. By Pioneerof the Nile, Tawny Port was reared by the multiple stakes-winning Livi Makenzie, by Macho Uno.