Derby Trail Update – 4/18/22 – By Eric Solomon

The prep races for the Kentucky Derby came to an end on Saturday when eleven horses went postward in the Grade 3 Stonestreet Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. In Due Time was sent off as the post time favorite for Kelly Breen and Paco Lopez. Other notable runners consisted of Jeff Ruby Steaks runner-up, Tawny Port, Lecomte winner, Call Me Midnight, Iroquois Stakes  winner, Major General, and Rebel Stakes runner-up, Ethereal Road

Cox Secures a Second Starter

Major General, making his second start off the layoff for Todd Pletcher, won the race into the first turn, despite breaking a beat slow. He was pressed by Strava and Dash Attack from the outside through moderate early fractions of 23:85 and 48:01. Tawny Port and In Due Time waited in the second flight, a few lengths back. 

As they made their way on to the second turn, Tawny Port were both asked for their run at the same point, and Tawny Port accelerated faster. He came over the top with a three wide bid to overtake Major General and Strava, and won by a length on the wire. The final time for the mile and a sixteenth race, was 1:45:24, and he earned an 89 Beyer Speed Figure for his victory. 

The 20 points earned by Tawny Port bumped his total to 60, which certainly guarantees him a spot in the starting gate in the Kentucky Derby. Brad Cox and Florent Geroux have teamed up with Cyberknife as well, who qualified for the Derby by winning the Arkansas Derby two weeks ago. I assume Geroux will have the decision of which colt he wants to ride. Despite the grinding victory from this Pioneerof the Nile colt, the fact that he hasn’t surpassed the 90 Beyer threshold in a dirt race is a bit concerning. While that is certainly not the only factor, it seems that this well-bred colt is still behind the top contenders. 

Major General earned a career top Beyer Speed figure for his second start as a three year old. Irad Ortiz rode him aggressively to put him on the front end, despite breaking a little bit slow, and that seemed to be the difference for him in this race. He’s an interesting horse to play back in his next start, assuming he points to a race like the Matt Winn as opposed to a race like the Preakness.

In Due Time was a bit of a disappointment in this race. He was absolutely explosive in his last two starts at Gulfstream, but when Paco Lopez asked the question in this race, he was slow to accelerate. Perhaps he struggled to get over the track here. Breen could have also tipped his hand that his colt wasn’t quite on par with some of the others when he bypassed the 100 point races in favor of this spot. He ran through along the rail to get into third in this race. He still could make the body of the Derby field if there are a few defections as he is currently 22nd in points. However, he’d be a tough sell for me taking on top level competition at this point in his career. He’s another horse that would benefit from another start in smaller stakes or a N2X allowance race. 

Ethereal Road is right behind him in 23rd place with 22 Derby Points. He came with another eye-catching move before leveling off a bit to finish 4th. Judging by the way he has been campaigned, running back a week after finishing off the board in the Toyota Blue Grass, I’d think his connections would opt to run him in the Derby if given the chance. However, I’d be interested in seeing him cut back to a one turn race. I think his pedigree lends nice to a one turn mile on the main track. He has made bold moves in each of his last few races before tiring late.

Coming Attractions on ITM

As the Derby approaches, make sure to keep an eye on the Derby Contender profiles that are being posted to the Kentucky Derby Blog each day. There’s tons of good information in each write up to get you up to speed on all of the horses that have qualified and are pointing toward the Derby. Eric DeCoster and I will wrap up the Derby Stable Showdown as well. Also keep your eyes peeled for podcasts coming over the next few weeks from some of the sharpest minds in the game. If you’re not an ITM Plus subscriber, check out the link below. The content all year long is invaluable for serious players or casual fans that are looking for unique perspectives on some of the best thoroughbred racing.



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