Oaklawn Park wrote Monday’s featured eighth race as a $101,000 allowance. But judging by the familiar names in the one-mile allowance, this race does a credible impression of a stakes race.

Wells Bayou 2022 Return
Wells Bayou hasn’t run an allowance race since this January 2020 victory at Oaklawn Park. He leads a field of familiar names into a Presidents’ Day allowance at Oaklawn. (Image: Coady Photography)

There’s Wells Bayou, making his second comeback from physical issues that cost him much of his 3-year-old and 4-year-old campaigns. There’s Concert Tour, trying to find the form that eluded him after last year’s Grade 2 Rebel Stakes. There’s Grade 2-winning sprinter C Z Rocket and Grade 3 winner Mo Mosa. And there’s your race favorite: 5/2 Mucho, who comes in off a second in the Fifth Season Stakes Jan. 15 at Oaklawn.

This is at least a Grade 3 field running an allowance, with Oaklawn offering one of the best Presidents’ Day races in the country. Given the fact Wells Bayou, Concert Tour and C Z rocket own Grade 2 victories, you could slap a Grade 2 sticker on this one and nobody would blink.

Concert Tour finished a dismal ninth in his return from an eight-month layoff – that Jan. 15 Fifth Season Stakes. He’ll add blinkers for this as trainer Brad Cox seeks the Concert Tour who won his first three races before stumbling to a third in the Arkansas Derby and a ninth in last year’s Preakness.

C Z Rocket, Mo Mosa, Wells Bayou, back at Oaklawn

Mo Mosa hasn’t hit the board since winning last year’s Grade 3 Steve Sexton Mile Stakes at Lone Star Park in May. His last outing was a fifth in an Oaklawn allowance optional claimer Jan. 28.

C Z Rocket finished third in an Oaklawn allowance optional claimer Jan. 15. He’s hit the board in 12 of his last 13 outings (7-3-3) dating to May 2020. The lone burp: a seventh in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

But much of the interest and attention here gravitates to Wells Bayou, who epitomizes the star-crossed, talented athlete who simply can’t stay healthy. The Cox trainee has run twice since the May 2020 Arkansas Derby. He finished third in the Grade 3 Louisiana Stakes in January 2021, going back on the shelf with a foot injury and illness.

Wells Bayou emerged from that setback in last April’s Oaklawn Mile, where he finished a credible third – and headed back to the shelf with a leg injury that required surgery.

Once-promising Derby trail runner

This sounds all-too familiar to Kentucky Derby watchers, who had Wells Bayou on the front page of their prospects list in 2020. That came after he front-ran his way to the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby title that March. He disappeared from the front page of Triple Crown prospects after a poor fifth in the second division of the rescheduled Arkansas Derby that May.

Wells Bayou came out of that Grade 1 race with bone bruises that shelved him for the rest of the 2020 season. He came out of that into that Louisiana Stakes before the injuries piled up again.

“We’re just hoping he runs his race,” co-owner Lance Gasaway told Oaklawn’s Robert Yates. “More than likely, it’s going to take a race to get him back. He’s been working good. Look forward to it.”

The workouts look strong, but is he cranked up yet?

Wells Bayou put in five workouts in 2022, three at Oaklawn. Included in that was a Jan. 20, 1:00.40 five-furlong bullet at Oaklawn that was best of 13 at that distance that day. His last work was a Feb. 15 47.80-second four-furlong work that was second of 60 at that distance that day.

And yet, despite that star-crossed history, Wells Bayou sits on the cusp of being a millionaire. Even opening his 5-year-old season with only eight races, he comes into Monday’s allowance with $912,793 in earnings.

“Obviously, we want to get him back into graded company, graded stakes races. (We’re) Hoping to try and make him a millionaire,” Gasaway said. “That’s kind of the goal.”

Wells Bayou’s first Oaklawn allowance race in 25 months

This is Wells Bayou’s first allowance race since he won an Oaklawn allowance by four lengths Jan. 26, 2020. That came as the 2/1 favorite.

He’s 9/2 for Comeback 2.0 Monday.