The 2019-20 Fair Grounds meet ended prematurely Saturday but with a bang for trainer Brad Cox. After saddling the winners of the Muniz Memorial (G2) and TwinSpires.com Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) earlier, the Louisville native celebrated Wells Bayou‘s wire-to-wire victory in the $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2), in which the Lookin at Lucky colt earned 100 qualifying points toward the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby (G1).
“We just got to figure out how to get them to the first Friday and Saturday in September, not May,” said Cox, referring to Wells Bayou and Fair Grounds Oaks winner Bonny South. “It’s uncharted territory, but we’ll adjust and do the best we can.”
Wells Bayou, the 3-1 favorite in a field of 14, broke sharply under Florent Geroux and seized the early lead from post 3. Setting a controlled pace of :23.56, :48, and 1:12.42 while not seriously pressured, Wells Bayou continued to find more through the stretch and passed the wire 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Ny Traffic. The final time for the Derby’s new distance of 1 3/16 miles on a fast track was 1:56.47.
Owned by Clint Gasaway, Lance Gasaway, Sol Kumin’s Madaket Stables, and Marc Lore’s Wonder Stable, Wells Bayou paid $8.80. Ny Traffic, second all the way around, out-finished Risen Star (G2) division winner Modernist, with Major Fed fourth. Those horses earned 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, respectively. Wells Bayou had now earned 104, Ny Traffic 50, Modernist 70, and Major Fed 30.
The order of finish was rounded out by Enforceable, Shake Some Action, Silver State, Chestertown, Royal Act, Social Afleet, Mailman Money, Sharecropper, Lynn’s Map, and Portos.
A debut winner going 6 furlongs at Keeneland in October, Wells Bayou weakened to seventh in his allowance follow-up at Churchill Downs in late November. However, after shedding the blinkers, the bay responded with a four-length allowance score at Oaklawn Park on Jan. 26. Last time, he was a game second to Silver Prospector in the Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn after setting a hot pace.
Wells Bayou had been considered for last week’s Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn, but Cox re-routed him to the Louisiana Derby.
“I honestly didn’t like the way the race was coming up,” said Cox, referring to the speed-laden Rebel. “This was more ground, which we thought he’d enjoy, and we thought he could establish a lead here. We did some homework on the race, trying to figure out who was going to be in here.”
Bred in Kentucky by Knowles Bloodstock, Wells Bayou most recently sold at auction for $105,000 at the OBS March juvenile sale. He was produced by Whispering Angel, by Hard Spun, and is from the family of 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness (G1) winner Big Brown.
The Louisiana Derby proved to be the final race of the winter season in New Orleans. Due to the coronavirus health scare that has halted racing in many jurisdictions throughout the country, Fair Grounds notified horsemen on Saturday that the final six days of the meet would be cancelled. The meet was originally scheduled to end on Mar. 29.