Cox: Louisiana Derby Winner Wells Bayou ‘A Candidate Right Now’ For Arkansas Derby

Two accomplished runners for trainer Brad Cox recorded workouts on an overcast Sunday morning at Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Ark., including Louisiana Derby winner and Arkansas Derby candidate Wells Bayou.

Wells Bayou breezed in company moments after the track opened under exercise rider Gustavo Abrego, the brother of assistant trainer Jorgito Abrego, who oversees Cox’s Oaklawn division. Wells Bayou covered 5 furlongs over a fast track in 1:00.40, his third local move since winning the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) March 21 at Fair Grounds.

Wells Bayou, on the outside during his drill with stablemate Wild Union, was credited with splits of :24.40 for his opening quarter-mile, :36.80 for 3 furlongs, :48.40 for a half-mile and galloping out 6 furlongs in 1:12.40 and 7 furlongs in 1:26.40. Wild Union, a 3-year-old by Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern, is a nine-race maiden. Cox said he breezes Wells Bayou in company, “most of the time.”

“We were looking for a good work today – if we decide to run,” the Kentucky-based Cox said by phone Sunday morning. “It was one of those things where we were just kind of looking to see how he would respond and he worked really well. Pleased with him.”

Oaklawn moved the Arkansas Derby from April 11 to closing day, May 2, in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The $750,000 Grade 1 event closed Thursday with 99 nominations. Early probables for the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby include Silver Prospector and Nadal, winners of Oaklawn’s second and third Kentucky Derby points races, respectively. Silver Prospector captured the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 17 for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Nadal won the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14 for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

“I would label him a candidate right now,” Cox said, referring to the Arkansas Derby status of Wells Bayou.

Wells Bayou had been based at Oaklawn before the 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby, winning a first-level allowance race Jan. 26 (his two-turn debut and first start without blinkers), then finishing a game second in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 17. The 1 1/16-mile Southwest marked the stakes debut for Wells Bayou, a son of champion Lookin At Lucky. Wells Bayou returned to Oaklawn in late March.

Wells Bayou ranks second on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 104 points, including 100 for his Louisiana Derby victory. He also earned four points for his runner-up finish in the Southwest.

Like the Louisiana Derby, the Arkansas Derby is scheduled to offer 170 points (100-40-20-10) to the top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby, which was moved from May 2 to Sept. 5

Purchased for $105,000 at the 2019 Ocala Breeders’ Sales March 2-year-old in training sale, Wells Bayou has a 3-1-0 record from five lifetime starts and earnings of $845,293. The colt races for his original owners, Arkansans Lance and Clint Gasaway, Sol Kumin (Madaket Stables) and Marc Lore (Wonder Stables). Madaket Stables and Wonder Stables bought into the colt after the Louisiana Derby.

Warrior’s Charge, another stakes winner for Cox, also breezed before the first surface renovation break Sunday morning in advance of the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older horses May 2. Warrior’s Charge, under exercise rider Edvin Vargas, went a half-mile in :47, second-fastest of 53 works recorded at the distance. Clockers had the 4-year-old son of Munnings galloping out 5 furlongs in 1:00, 6 furlongs in 1:12.60 and 7 furlongs in 1:26.60.

Warrior’s Charge hasn’t started since a front-running victory by a head in the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) Feb. 17, a major local prep for the Oaklawn Handicap. Warrior’s Charge breezed by himself Sunday.

“He’s obviously a horse that does not need company as he gets older,” Cox said. “They (older horses) tend to do things on their own, get some races underneath them. He’s a really, really solid work horse. He’s doing what we like to see leading up to this race. Very similar to how he led up to the Razorback. It looks like it’s going to be a really solid race. He’s a solid horse, so we’ll see what happens.”

The 1 1/8-mile Oaklawn Handicap closed Thursday with 38 nominations.

Baffert said in a text message Sunday morning that Grade 1 winner Improbable is pointing for the Oaklawn Handicap. Improbable, in his 4-year-old debut, finished second in the $150,000 Oaklawn Mile April 11.

Improbable schooled in the gate before galloping after the first surface renovation break Sunday morning under exercise rider Yoni Hernandez. Improbable finished second in the first division of last year’s $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn before running second in the Arkansas Derby.

Cox is also scheduled to start Night Ops in the Oaklawn Handicap. Owned by prominent Arkansas automobile dealer Steve Landers, Night Ops won the $350,000 Essex Handicap, a major steppingstone to the Oaklawn Handicap, in his last start.

The post Cox: Louisiana Derby Winner Wells Bayou ‘A Candidate Right Now’ For Arkansas Derby appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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