After a victory in one of the few, if not only, live professional sporting events to take place on United States soil this weekend, there's a new leader in the chase for spots in this year's Kentucky Derby.
Wells Bayou took an early lead and held on to win the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on Saturday. With the victory, the Brad Cox-trained colt earned 100 qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby, which has been rescheduled for Sept. 5, and vaulted to the top of the Derby leaderboard. Last year, it took an all-time high of 40 points to earn a spot in the field.
Awarding qualifying points to the top four finishers on a 100-40-20-10 scale, the Louisiana Derby is among the most important Kentucky Derby prep races.
The general public was barred from witnessing Wells Bayou's thrilling wire-to-wire ride. Like most race tracks around the country, Fair Grounds last week barred spectators because of the coronavirus pandemic. Turns out, the meet didn't long outlast the Louisiana Derby.
Fair Grounds announced Saturday that the remainder of its meet, which was scheduled to run through March 29, was suspended so as to comply with the "stay home" order issued by New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell.
With jockey Florent Geroux aboard, Wells Bayou covered the 1 3/8-mile race in 1:56.47. He paid $8.40, $5.80 and $4.60.
"He's very great leaving the gate. He broke super sharp," Geroux said. "After that, when he makes the lead, he relaxes very nice. I let him take a few breathers around the turns. He did perfectly. And when the competition came next to him down the lane, he has another gear."
NY Traffic, with Luis Saez aboard, finished a head behind the winner after breaking from the gate as a 26-1 long shot. He paid $21.60 and $12.60 and earned 40 points toward the Kentucky Derby. Modernist finished third to earn 20 points and move into second on the leaderboard. Morning line favorite Enforceable, who went off at 7-2, finished fifth.
Though Wells Bayou has essentially locked up a spot in the Kentucky Derby field should his connections choose to enter him, Geroux said there are no guarantees given the unique circumstances that have delayed the Run for the Roses.
"Well, now (the Kentucky Derby is) the first Saturday in September so it's a long way away and many things can happen," Geroux said. "I am just hoping he comes back healthy and adjusts and goes from there."
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