Wells Bayou wins Louisiana Derby at empty track

Horse Racing

NEW ORLEANS — Wells Bayou took an early lead and held off NY Traffic to win the $1 million Louisiana Derby by a head on Saturday in one of the few U.S. sporting events to continue as scheduled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

For the 107th running of the major prep race for the Kentucky Derby, the clubhouse and grandstand at Fair Grounds Race Course were empty and eerily quiet because of crowd restrictions related to the virus. There was no crowd noise to rival the echoing voice of track announcer John G. Dooley; there was only the sound of 56 hooves clopping down the stretch.

Trained by Brad Cox and with jockey Florent Geroux aboard, Wells Bayou led wire-to-wire and earned 100 points toward qualification for the Kentucky Derby, which has been delayed until early September from its usual running on the first Saturday in May.

“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.”

Wells Bayou finished the new 1⅜-mile race distance in 1:56.47. He paid $8.40, $5.80 and $4.60.

“The first Saturday in September is a long ways away,” Geroux said, referring to the tentative new date for the Kentucky Derby. “Many things can happen. We’re just hoping the horse comes back healthy, and we’re going to adjust and go from there.”

The Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained NY Traffic, with Luis Saez aboard, earned 40 points and paid $21.60 and $12.60 after breaking from the starting gate as a 26-1 long shot.

Modernist finished third and paid $9.60.

Morning line favorite Enforceable, who went off at 7-2, finished fifth.

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