NEW ORLEANS, LA – Proving to be the speed of the speed, Wells Bayou struck the front early and never relented, walloping his foes from start to finish in Saturday’s $1 million Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds.
Breaking from post 3 under Florent Geroux as the 3/1 favorite, Wells Bayou immediately put himself on the lead as the field passed the empty grandstands for the first time. Ny Traffic and Mailman Money gave closest chase as Wells Bayou posted uncontested opening fractions of :23.56, :48.00, 1:12.42, and 1:37.61 through the first mile.
Still running unchallenged as he neared the top of the stretch, Wells Bayou came under a drive at the 5/16 pole and dug in to keep his foes at bay. Though Ny Traffic looked like he might pose a danger at the 3/16 pole, he and the other 12 runners all failed to make up enough ground in time.
Trained by Brad Cox, Wells Bayou crossed 1 1/2 lengths clear in a final time of 1:56.47 for the 1 3/16-mile event over the fast main track.
“He was great leaving the gate,” said Geroux, who also teamed up with Cox one race prior to win the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2). “He stands there perfectly and then breaks super sharp. After that, when he makes the lead, he relaxes very nicely. We took a few breathers around the turn, and then when we turned down the lane, he didn’t lose his gear.”
Though unable to collar the pacesetting victor, Ny Traffic was 2 3/4 lengths safely secure in second at the wire under jockey Joe Bravo.
“The horse’s first couple races, you would think he was not Louisiana Derby quality,” Bravo said. “The last couple races, he really stepped up to the plate and the horse is just getting good. The thing that makes him so good is that he listens. He broke great, I put him in front, and he relaxed off the other horse. He turned for home and my horse did not want to lay up. He ran for me down the lane and that’s all you can ask for.”
Modernist followed his Risen Star Stakes (G2) victory with a third-place finish for trainer Bill Mott, finishing a 1/2-length ahead of Major Fed.
“(Jockey Junior Alvarado) said he wished he was closer, but the horse had no real excuse,” Mott said. “Thought he ran fine. Just hope he comes back okay and we will move forward.”
The Lecomte Stakes (G3) winner Enforceable had a rough trip in the stretch but still rallied his way up to fifth in the end. Shake Some Action, Silver State, Chestertown, Royal Act, Social Afleet, Mailman Money, Sharecropper, Lynn’s Map, and Portos completed the order of finish.
The Louisiana Derby is part of the Road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Wells Bayou earned 100 points for the win, with Ny Traffic receiving 40 for second, Modernist 20 for third, and Major Fed 10 for fourth.
Wells Bayou’s win was his third in five starts, having broken his maiden on debut at Keeneland last October before taking a January allowance event at Oaklawn Park. The 3-year-old son of Lookin At Lucky, most recently second in the Southwest Stakes (G3), has now earned $245,293 for co-owners Clint Gasaway, Lance Gasaway, Madaket Stables, and Wonder Stables.
“The plan was to give him another week,” Cox said of his decision to bypass last week’s Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park. “This spot was more ground (1/8 of a mile longer), which we thought he would enjoy and thought he could establish the lead here. We did some homework on the race to see who was going to be running. You try to put together a game plan and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. In horse racing, a lot of time it doesn’t, but this time, it did.
“We are really happy with our assistants and everybody involved who do such an incredible job,” Cox continued. “We have a great team in place and it showed today. We just have to figure out how to get him to the first Saturday in September and not May. It is uncharted territory and we will do the best we can.”
Wells Bayou returned $8.40 to win, $5.80 to place, and $4.60 to show. Ny Traffic brought back $21.60 to place and $12.60 to show, while Modernist paid $9.60 to show.