2022 Kentucky Derby Contender Profile – Tawny Port

HOW HE GOT HERE

TAWNY PORT has earned 60 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby via a strong second place finish in the Jeff Ruby “Steaks” Stakes at Turfway Park and a victory in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. TAWNY PORT has been lightly raced thus far, having just five career starts so far. His career debut came late in his two-year-season in early December. However, it was well worth the wait as he rolled to an impressive 6.5 length victory as the 2-1 favorite after being very far back early- specifically, he was 11th of 12 runners at the first call.

His three-year-old debut came just a month later in early January when he fought hard to get the lead late against allowance optional company and he held on to win by a head. Both of these first two races were over the synthetic at Turfway Park, but TAWNY PORT got his dirt test next time out at the Fair Grounds in the Grade II Risen Star. He raced okay over the dirt, finishing fifth in the Louisiana Derby prep. He had to swing six-wide into the stretch and was able to pass some tired foes late.

His career best race came next in the Grade III Jeff Ruby Stakes. While he finished a clear second-best to TIZ THE BOMB, he was a little closer to the pace and raced very well overall to earn a triple digit Equibase speed figure, the only one of his career so far. Perhaps his best race with respect to the Derby came most recently in the Grade III Lexington at Keeneland when he proved he can run over the dirt. He was shuffled back to eighth at the half, but rallied around the far turn and got up late to win nicely by a length to officially punch his ticket to the 2022 Kentucky Derby.

 

HOW HE FITS HERE

The Equibase speed figures earned by TAWNY PORT in his two most recent races, a 99 in the Lexington on the Keeneland dirt and a 102 in the Jeff Ruby Stakes on the Turfway synthetic, are actually higher than the consistent 97’s being put in by the likely Kentucky Derby favorite Epicenter. However, the bigger question for TAWNY PORT is class. The most significant horse he’s raced against so far has been TIZ THE BOMB, who is likely to be a bomb in the Kentucky Derby. However, prior to the most recent effort, there was a possible question about how well he would take to the dirt surface, so at least that question has been clearly answered, which likely improves his chances in the Derby.

CONNECTIONS AND PEDIGREE

A quick glance at the pedigree for TAWNY PORT shows that he clearly can take to multiple surfaces. His fellow Turfway Derby contender TIZ THE BOMB has a clear turf pedigree. This isn’t the case for TAWNY PORT, who is a son of PIONEEROF THE NILE, who raced well on synthetic (winning the Santa Anita Derby) and on dirt (finishing second in the Kentucky Derby, for example). Likewise, TAWNY PORT has found significant success in his brief career so far on both surfaces, a trend he will try to keep going in the Derby on dirt.

The connections for TAWNY PORT should be well recognized from last year’s Kentucky Derby: trainer Brad Cox. Cox had his first career Kentucky Derby successes last year, but didn’t get to celebrate in the traditional way as they were declared winners well after the fact due to the disqualification of MEDINA SPIRIT. This year, Cox will look to celebrate in the more traditional way in the winner’s circle immediately after the Derby this year with TAWNY PORT. The rider for TAWNY PORT is still to be determined.

 

OVERALL CHANCE

Much like his fellow Turfway horse, TIZ THE BOMB, TAWNY PORT is in with a theoretical chance if he can answer a key question. For TIZ THE BOMB, the question relates to his ability to take to the dirt. In the case of TAWNY PORT, it’s a question of class; has TAWNY PORT ran against tough enough competition to prove he belongs here? Maybe not, but if he can take the step forward in the Kentucky Derby, he could be worth a look at the 20-1 number you’re likely to get at post time.

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