(Blackberry Wine is a contender in the Woodchopper Stakes / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

(Trainer Michael Stidham will saddle Pixelate / Coady Photography)

From the Fair Grounds Media Team:

Even though Godolphin LLC’s homebred Pixelate is be the class of the field in the $75,000 Woodchopper, he’s going to have to earn the victory as he leads the way over a strong field of 3-year-olds. The Woodchopper, run at about 1-mile on the Stall-Wilson Turf Course, drew a baker’s dozen, including a quintet of stakes winners.

Pixelate (post 5 at 4-1 with Angel Suarez) has been a top-level performer from the start for trainer Mike Stidham. He won the Central Park at Aqueduct as a 2-year-old to conclude a 2-for-4 freshman campaign, and the son of City Zip has only progressed from there. It took him a bit to get over a class hump this year after he finished on the board without winning in five straight stakes starts to kick off 2020, but Pixelate picked the right time to break through, winning the Del Mar Derby (G2) in September. He followed up with a close fifth in the Belmont Derby (G1) in October, and enters off a closing fourth in Keeneland’s November 6 Bryan Station, a race in which he was hung 10-wide on the turn for home. Pixelate is 3-for-13 lifetime and has answered the bell every time, which has been no surprise to Stidham.

“He’s been ultra-consistent over the last two years and we’ve always thought he was very talented,” Stidham said. “In several of his races he was coming up just a little bit short and wasn’t quite getting there. He’s been running against some really solid, tough horses. Even in the grade 1 he only got beat a couple lengths and he’s on the cusp of being in the top group of his category.”

Pixelate has run 1 1/8 miles or farther in his last five starts, though he shows a good second at a mile in the War Chant at Churchill Downs in May. While the Woodchopper won’t be at his ideal distance, Stidham is hoping Pixelate won’t be compromised at a shorter trip.

“I don’t think the cutback will be a problem,” Stidham said. “He can lay in a forward position. I would prefer it being 1 1/16 miles but from a class standpoint he’s been hooking some tough horses and I think he’s in a good spot.”

Contention runs deep in the Woodchopper and Repole Stable’s Bodecream (post 2 as Mike Diliberto’s lukewarm 7-2 morning line favorite with James Graham) enters in career-best form for trainer Mike Maker. The son of Bodemeister started his career 2-for-8 for trainer Danny Pish, and following a private purchase, he was turned over to Maker this summer. He has really blossomed, though he’s still looking for his first win for his new connections. Bodecream, who is 2-for-11 lifetime, was third in Saratoga’s Saranac (G3) in August in his first start for Maker, third in Belmont’s Hill Prince (G2) in October, and he enters off a nose second in Aqueduct’s November 27 Gio Ponti.

Calumet Farm’s homebred Blackberry Wine (post 9 at 9-2 with Gabriel Saez) is the wildcard for trainer Joe Sharp. He is winless in three turf starts but enters off an extremely fast optional-claiming win on December 13 here on the main track. The son of Oxbow has been third, however, in all three grass starts, and he hasn’t been over the surface since running in an optional-claimer here last December. Blackberry Wine is 2-for-11 lifetime and could prove the one to catch.

Completing the Woodchopper field from the rail out: Kueber Racing LLC, Ten Strike Racing, and Mark Blieden’s Pit Boss (20-1 with Mitchell Murrill), 2-for-7 lifetime but trying turf for the first time for trainer Matt Shirer; P. Dale Ladner’s Jack the Umpire (post 3 at 20-1 with Jack Gilligan), second here in the Randy Romero Memorial in February for trainer Brett Brinkman; Wayne R. Sanders and Larry Hirsch’s Spanish Kingdom (post 4 at 8-1 with Brian Hernandez Jr.), 11th, though just 3 lengths behind in the Bryan Station for trainer Sharp; Paradise Farms Corp’s Dynadrive (post 6 at 12-1 with Shaun Bridgmohan), claimed for $50,000 by Maker out of a win at Belmont; Brian L. Gunder’s Top Draw (post 7 at 20-1 with Francisco Arrieta), who makes his turf debut for trainer Ken Roberts; Stallionaire Enterprises LLC’s Doc Boy (post 8 at 12-1 with Florent Geroux), a winner of the Columbia at Tampa Bay Downs in March for Stidham; Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s homebred Telephone Talker (post 10 at 12-1 with Adam Beschizza), who won his last two on turf in Kentucky and enters off a second in the slop at Churchill November 25 for Maker; Susan Moulton’s Stanford (Ire) (post 11 at 20-1 with Marcelino Pedroza), sixth in his lone U.S. start at Belmont for trainer Wayne Catalano; Rick Rinn and Richard and Karen Boyer’s Victory Boulevard (post 12 at 20-1 wit Miguel Mena), who makes his debut on the turf after being claimed for $20,000 off a win in the slop at Churchill November 25 by trainer Bobby Barnett; and Dixiana Farms LCC’s Oak Hill (post 13 at 6-1 with Colby Hernandez), a strong allowance winner in his last start on turf two-back at Churchill for trainer Al Stall Jr.

(Whoa Nellie / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

Whoa Nellie Heads Select Group in Spanky Broussard

Jones Trainee Tepid Favorite in Tough Six-Pack

The $75,000 Joseph E. Spanky Broussard, run at 1-mile and 70 yards, drew a compact yet stellar field of 3 and 4-year-old fillies. To hear trainer Larry Jones tell it, Fox Hill Farms Inc’s Whoa Nellie will only be getting started when they hit the finish line.

“As we say, her name is Whoa Nellie, so getting her pulled up after her gallops and races is like ‘Woah Nellie,’” Jones said. “She’ll run all day and her forte is to go two turns.”

Whoa Nellie (post 1 at 8-5 with Florent Geroux) has blossomed since being stretched out over a route of ground and Jones is hoping to use the Broussard as a stepping-stone to what he hopes will be a big 2021 campaign. The 4-year-old daughter of Orb was a solid one-turn allowance performer to start her career but she took her game to a new level last winter when sent two turns. She won the Pippin at Oaklawn Park in January and then was second, beaten just a neck, in a Bayakoa (G3) in February.

“She showed in the Pippin and coming back in the Bayakoa this is what she is and we think her 5-year-old year could be a very big year for her,” Jones said. “She has learned to settle early and sits well now until we’re ready to go. Needless to say, being by Orb and (out of a Medaglia d’Oro mare), distance is not an issue for her.”

Whoa Nellie, who is 5-for-11 lifetime, missed nine months after the Bayakoa and came back to run third in Churchill Downs’ one-turn Chilukki (G3) November 21, where she spotted recency to local Rachel Alexandra (G2) heroine and multiple graded stakes winner Finite. She made a bold middle-move before flattening out a bit late. The effort left Jones feeling very confident moving forward.

“She’s better now than she was then,” Jones said. “Coming into that Chilukki off a nine-month layoff, that was not an easy task, and for her to run that well and against those horses, and to finish as well as she did, that race should tighten her up really well.”

Hoffman Family Racing LLC and Steve Landry’s Beautiful Trauma (post 3 at 9-5 with James Graham) looms the one to catch, as she enters off a gate-to-wire win in an optional-claimer November 12 at Churchill for trainer Tom Amoss. The 3-year-old daughter of Tapiture is 3-for-7 lifetime but will make her stakes debut in the Broussard. She is familiar with the local main track, having won an off-the-turf optional-claimer here 370 days ago by 16 lengths.

Phoenix Thoroughbred III Ltd’s Lady Apple (post 5 at 3-1 with Adam Beschizza) is looking to find the form that has earlier netted her a quartet of grade 3 wins for trainer Steve Asmussen. The 4-year-old daughter of Curlin was 5-for-7 in 2019, and won the Houston Ladies Classic (G3) at Sam Houston to kick off her season in January, but she is winless in five starts since. Lady Apple is 6-for-17 lifetime, with $1.038 million in earnings, and she gets back to the main track after running fourth in the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf (G3) September 12.

Completing the Joseph E. Spanky Broussard Memorial from the rail out: Four Lawn Chairs LLC’s Longpants Required (post 2 at 20-1 with Shaun Bridgmohan), who broke her maiden two-back at Churchill for trainer Brendan Walsh; La Nora LLC’s Joy Epifora (post 4 at 8-1 with Brian Hernandez Jr.), a group 1 winner in her native Argentina but winless in four U.S. starts for trainer Ignacio Correas; and Rigney Racing LLC’s Singita Dreams (post 6 at 12-1 with Miguel Mena), who won an off-the-turf optional-claimer two-back at Churchill for trainer Phil Bauer.

(Trainer Brad Cox to saddle Disobedient / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

Disobedient Streaks into Pago Hop

Lightly Raced Filly Tackles Stakes Foes

A talented but unproven group of 3-year-old fillies is scheduled to meet the starter in the $75,000 Pago Hop at about 1-mile on the Stall-Wilson Turf course, and none fit that description more than Martin S. Schwartz’s Disobedient, who enters off two straight easy wins against lesser. The Pago Hop drew 11 in what looks to be the deepest and most competitive of the Saturday stakes.

Disobedient (post 4 at 5-1 on the morning line with Shaun Bridgmohan to ride) has proven plenty versatile in three career starts for trainer Brad Cox. She was a fast-closing fourth on the turf on debut at Indiana Grand in September and broke her maiden over the same course a month later. The daughter of Into Mischief made her local debut in an off-the-turf allowance November 26 and led every step for an easy 5-length win, showing she can adapt to any pace scenario. Disobedient spots stakes experience to several in the Pago Hop but looks long on talent for a Cox barn that seems intent on winning its fifth straight Fair Grounds’ training title.

Paradise Farm Corp. and David Staudacher’s Evil Lyn (post 11 as the 7-2 morning line favorite with Florent Geroux) looms the horse to beat for trainer Mike Maker, as she enters off two straight turf wins, including the Hilltop at Pimlico in October. The daughter Wicked Strong was claimed for $40,000 out of a win at Churchill Downs in May and is 2-for-5 for her new connections, including an optional-claiming win at Churchill November 8. Evil Lyn is 5-for-16 lifetime and is perfect in two starts over the Fair Grounds turf.

Bal Mar Equine LLC’s In Good Spirits (post 2 at 9-2 with Miguel Mena) figures to be in front early for trainer Al Stall Jr., as she led every step but the last in an optional-claimer here December 3. The daughter of Ghostzapper is 2-for-8 lifetime and was a close third in Churchill’s Regret (G3) in June.

Completing the Pago Hop field from the rail out: Captain Jack Racing Stable LLC’s Timeless Rose (12-1 with Santo Sanjur), 3-for-11 lifetime against lesser for trainer Anthony Granitz and making her first start for trainer Gary Scherer; Kingsport Farm’s Ylikedis (post 3 at 8-1 with Angel Suarez), fourth behind In Good Spirits last time for trainer Kelly Rubley;  Jerry Namy’s Island Hideaway (GB) (post 5 at 15-1 with Francisco Arrieta), who enters off a win in an optional-claimer August 19 at Evangeline Downs for trainer Karl Broberg; Naveed Chowhan’s Teenage Kicks (post 6 at 12-1 with Colby Hernandez), a fast-closing third in an optional-claimer November 8 at Churchill Downs for trainer Bernie Flint; Silverton Hill LLC’s homebred Pass the Plate (post 7 at 8-1 with Brian Hernandez Jr.), second in Churchill’s off-the-turf Mrs. Revere (G2) November 14 for trainer Paul McGee; Sam Wilensky and Rosana Puerta Curbelo’s Drop a Hint (post 8 at 12-1 with Adam Beschizza), third in Belmont Park’s October 10 Sands Point (G2) for trainer Antonio Arriaga and making her first start for Scherer; Stonestreet Stables LLC’s Windracer (Ire) (post 9 at 8-1 with Declan Carroll), who enters off a close third in an optional-claimer December 4 at Tampa Bay Downs for trainer Jack Sisterson; and MyRacehorse.com’s His Glory (post 10 at 10-1 with James Graham), who won an off-the-turf allowance at Keeneland in October for trainer Joe Sharp.