Photo: Hodges Photography / Lou Hodges, Jr.
Wells Bayou looked like a leading 2020 Kentucky Derby contender when drawing off from Ny Traffic to win the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby in March.
Things did not go to plan for the talented Brad Cox trainee after his sharp victory, but he returns at Fair Grounds on Saturday for the first time since running fifth in the Arkansas Derby (G1) in May in hopes of a productive 4-year-old campaign.
The front-running son of Lookin at Lucky headlines a field of nine for the $125,000 Louisiana Stakes (G3), going 1 1/16 miles.
Though he is the class of the field, Wells Bayou will have to contend with many sharp runners who hold a significant fitness edge.
Steve Asmussen’s Grade 2-placed Sonneman dominated allowance foes in November at Churchill Downs before running second to the undefeated Maxfield in the Tenacious Stakes last out.
Asmussen also will send out Silver Prospector, who already notched a victory over Wells Bayou in the 2020 Southwest Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn. Famous for defeating Tiz the Law in the 2019 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), Silver Prospector was victorious in an allowance affair at Churchill on Oct. 30 before running sixth in the Clark (G1).
Blackberry Wine is likely to challenge Wells Bayou on the lead. The son of Oxbow picked up a dominant allowance win over the track and distance in December for trainer Joe Sharp.
The speed of Blackberry Wine will ensure that this race is far from a walk in the park for Wells Bayou, but the Brad Cox trainee will not have to improve much on the 96 and 91 Beyer Speed Figures he earned as a 3-year-old to have a major say in his first start as a 4-year-old.
Wells Bayou was knocked off of the Kentucky Derby Trail with bone bruising after dueling and fading with Nadal in the Arkansas Derby, but his workouts, including a four-furlong drill in 48.40 on Dec. 27, indicate that he ready to take the next step in his career.