3-year-olds battle for Kentucky Derby points in Lexington

With a purse of $400,000, the Stonestreet Lexington Stakes (G3) will have its richest renewal of 40 editions on April 16 at Keeneland. This year it also provides the final attempt to earn qualifying points for the May 7 Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) at Churchill Falls.

In years past, the Arkansas Derby (G1) has also fallen on the same day as the Lexington, three weeks out of the Derby, but not in 2022, with Oaklawn Park reposition the Arkansas Derby and its other races 3 years earlier in the schedule. So the 34 points up for grabs in the Lexington are valuable, potentially necessary to secure entry into the Derby, which may oversubscribe beyond its maximum size of 20 horsepower.

Horses finishing first through fourth at Lexington earn points on a 20-8-4-2 basis.

Of the 11 horses entered in the 1 1/16 mile Lexington, only Port Tawny (40 points) currently has enough points to participate in the Run for the Roses. Defections in the weeks leading up to the race, which occur historically, could allow a starter to enter with a points total in the 30s or 20s.

On time (20 points), ethereal road (20), call me midnight (ten), fast attack (10), and Major General (10) have points but probably need more.

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While Peachtree Stable’s Tawny Port may not need the points to make the Derby, he may need to run well on the dirt in Lexington to justify continuing in the Triple Crown series. His three most competitive races out of four starts have all been on the synthetic surface of Tapeta at Turfway Park, the most recent being a second for Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) on April 2. He finished fifth in the February 19 Risen Star Stakes presented by Lamarque Ford (G2) in his only clay appearance at Fair Grounds race course and slot machines against three of the leaders of the 3-year-old division in Epicenter , smile of happiness and Zandon .

Florent Geroux rides the Pioneer of the Nile colt, who returns after two weeks off for trainer Brad Cox. Geroux and Cox teamed up to win the 2019 Lexington with Owendale who ran third in the Preakness that year in a follow-up start.

Julie Gilbert and Aaron Sones’ Ethereal Road comes back even faster than Tawny Port, seventh in last week’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1) for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Earlier this spring, he finished second in the February 26 Rebel Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn.

His trainer, Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, is a four-time Lexington winner. His 1999 winner, Charismatic, won that year’s Run for the Roses and later the Preakness before his career ended with an injury sustained while finishing third in the Belmont Stakes (G1). Swale, charismatic and Lexington runner-up in 1984, is the only Lexington entrant to have won the Derby.

Victor Espinoza picks up the mount on Ethereal Road.

Other winning Lexington coaches with starters in Saturday’s race include Todd Pletcher (Major General), Kenny McPeek (Dash Attack) and Keith Desormeaux (Call Me Midnight). All three horses are stake winners on a field course.

Peter Cantrell and Benjamin Gase’s Call Me Midnight is the only colt to beat Epicentre, an early Derby favorite, since the fall. He snuffed him out with a header in the Lecomte Stakes (G3) on January 22 at Fair Grounds, then after sitting on the Risen Star, finished sixth behind him in the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) of the March 26.

“We’ve only run it twice this year and we had planned the Derby to be his third race. It didn’t work out that way,” Desormeaux said. “We’ll see if this run can prove he’s Derby quality. If not, we’ll just redirect him.”

James Graham will pilot the late son of midnight lute from outside, post 11, in Lexington. Like other 1 1/16 mile dirt races at Keeneland, the Lexington begins and ends at the sixteenth post of the track.

Edge Racing, Medallion Racing and Parkland Thoroughbreds’ In Due Time apparently did better in Station 2. Coach Kelly Breen opted to give the 3-year-old son a Not this time more recovery time after placing second in the March 5 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park, skipping the April 2 Curlin Florida Derby presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms in Xalapa (G1) and April 9 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1) in recent weeks.

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Paco Lopez, suspended for 14 days for reckless driving in the Fountain of Youth, a race in which two jockeys were knocked off their mounts, is back in irons aboard In Due Time. Gulfstream Park Stewards made no changes to the order of finish.

The Major-General, winner of the Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill in September but last of 10 in his Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) season debut on March 12 when he returns, adds blinders, as does the fact Strava a colt coming out of the ranks claiming the optional first level allowance.

A horse originally pointed to Lexington runner-up Sunland Park Derby (G3) goodbye bobby was not entered and is no longer being considered for the Kentucky Derby after recently developing an abscess on his foot, coach Todd Fincher told Daily Racing Form.

The Lexington is the ninth race in an 11-race schedule at 5:16 p.m. ET, one race ahead of the day‘s richest race at Keeneland, the $500,000 Jenny Wiley Stakes (G1T).

Inputs: Stonestreet Lexington South (G3)

Keeneland, Saturday 16 April 2022, Race 9

  • Class III
  • 1 1/16m
  • Dirt
  • $400,000
  • 3 years
  • 5:16 p.m. (local time)

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