‘Ultra-Consistent’ Pixelate Headlines Saturday’s Woodchopper At Fair Grounds

Even though Godolphin LLC’s homebred Pixelate is be the class of the field in Saturday’s $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 one bodemile on the Stall-Wilson Turf Course at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, La., 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, 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 Nov. 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, 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 Nov. 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 Dec. 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); P. Dale Ladner’s Jack the Umpire (post 3 at 20-1 with Jack Gilligan); Wayne R. Sanders and Larry Hirsch’s Spanish Kingdom (post 4 at 8-1 with Brian Hernandez Jr.); Paradise Farms Corp’s Dynadrive (post 6 at 12-1 with Shaun Bridgmohan); Brian L. Gunder’s Top Draw (post 7 at 20-1 with Francisco Arrieta); Stallionaire Enterprises LLC’s Doc Boy (post 8 at 12-1 with Florent Geroux); Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s homebred Telephone Talker (post 10 at 12-1 with Adam Beschizza); Susan Moulton’s Stanford (Ire) (post 11 at 20-1 with Marcelino Pedroza); Rick Rinn and Richard and Karen Boyer’s Victory Boulevard (post 12 at 20-1 wit Miguel Mena); and Dixiana Farms LCC’s Oak Hill (post 13 at 6-1 with Colby Hernandez).

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