Wells Bayou and 'Wish I Was in New Orleans'
"Well I wish I was in New Orleans
I can see it in my dreams
Arm in arm down Burgundy
A bottle and my friends and me"
Years after their retirement, when they're out at stud, shining in a slower-moving career, or hanging out with their equine friends in a field, do horses think about their glory days on the racetrack?
Can they swap stories with their paddock-mates about the good old days, about the time they galloped away with their signature win, or the one that made them a rising star?
If they can, it's easy to imagine Wells Bayou 20 years from now, noshing on some fresh Kentucky bluegrass and singing Tom Waits's gruff, nostalgic "I Wish I Was in New Orleans" to all the other horses in earshot.
Wells Bayou is a town about 350 miles north of Fair Grounds, in the same state where its namesake horse made his first confident strides onto the Derby trail.
After one win in two starts as a juvenile, he started his 3-year-old season with a confident, four-length victory in an optional-claiming allowance at Oaklawn Park in January, then followed that up with a frontrunning, second-place finish in the Southwest (G3), his first attempt in stakes company.
Wells Bayou's visit to New Orleans could not have gone better. Smoothly away, he bounded to the lead, with nothing but a broad expanse of racetrack and the rest of New Orleans to behold in front of him. Well rated on the lead by Florent Geroux, Wells Bayou never saw anything but those two things for a mile and three-sixteenths.
He loaded into the gate as a relative newcomer on the Derby trail. He crossed the wire with a punched ticket to Louisville.
Will the Louisiana Derby be Wells Bayou's signature win, or will he amass a book of other tales?
Only time will tell. Regardless, if horses can tell stories, Wells Bayou will regale his paddock-mates with nostalgia for the Big Easy deep into the future.