Brad Cox has warned that Wells Bayou has been ‘a little slow to get back on track’ ahead of his racing return in Saturday’s Grade 3 Louisiana at Fair Grounds.
The four-year-old son of Lookin At Lucky hasn’t been sighted since a fading fifth in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby in early May.
He dueled for the lead for much of that race, seeking to enhance his then-Kentucky Derby aims, but wilted late on and was sent for scans post-race.
Cox suggests there were no underlying problems but he elected for a timeout with a horse that was more likely going through growing pains.
“We worked him a time or two after the Arkansas Derby and we weren’t happy with the works,” Cox said. “We sent him off for a bone scan. There was nothing major going on, just a little bone remodelling and young horse stuff, you know, some wear and tear. He just needed some time off, and he got that.”
Winner of last year’s Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds, Wells Bayou is ready for his return to the racetrack in Saturday’s one-mile-half-a-furlong contest, which is worth $125,000.
He has won three-from-six career starts to this point and could still have a very bright future ahead of him.
Cox though is keen to underline that he may not necessarily be at full tilt on his return to action.
“He’s been a little slow to get back on track,” Cox said. “He was very heavy when he came in. His last few works at Oaklawn have been really sharp. The race (Louisiana) was there so we would enter and take a good look at it and it looks like a really good comeback spot for him.”
Regular rider Florent Geroux is on board for the Louisiana and, despite Cox sounding the bell of caution, Wells Bayou was installed as the early favourite to win.
Blackberry Wine is amongst the leading opponents. The Joe Sharp-trained son of Oxbow has at times struggled to cope with the burden of expectation placed on him.
He scored last time out in an optional claimer, while he was a distant seventh in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds 11 months ago. He was decisive in his last-time-out win and his trainer feels things are coming together nicely, at last.
“We felt really good coming into the Fair Grounds race last time,” Sharp said. “That was the old Blackberry Wine and numbers-wise, it was even better than the old Blackberry Wine.
“The timing is good. He’s had a few good works since then. It doesn’t look like there is a lot of speed in the race, which plays into our hand. He doesn’t have to be on the lead, but he likes to be close early, that’s for sure.”
Blackberry Wine will have Adam Beschizza on board in the Louisiana from gate four, with Wells Bayou having drawn gate eight of nine.
Steve Asmussen’s Sonneman, Gerard Perron’s LA Champions Day Classic winner Grand Luwegee and Dallas Stewart’s Title Ready are also set to feature in the Louisiana line-up.