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Pass the Plate Serves Up a Victory in a Pago Hop Thriller
Pass the Plate winning the Pago Hop (Credit: Hodges Photography)

Pass the Plate Serves Up a Victory in a Pago Hop Thriller

NEW ORLEANS, LA – Silverton Hill LLC’s homebred Pass the Plate needed every inch of the about 1-mile of the $75,000 Pago Hop for 3-year-old fillies, and a little luck from the photo finish as well, as she closed from far back to reel in the pacesetting even-money favorite Evil Lyn by a nose.

Aggressive from the start with Evil Lyn, Florent Geroux was able to take command aboard the even-money favorite. The pair set comfortable fractions of 24.13 and 48.60, while In Good Spirits and Miguel Mena stalked comfortably in second. Meanwhile, Pass the Plate took her customary position at the back of the field-of-9 under Brian Hernandez Jr., who was content to let things play out up front. The race remained virtually unchanged off the far turn and to midstretch when Hernandez was able to tip out Pass the Plate, who then took dead aim on the top-2 and was able to get her nose on the line over a game Evil Lyn, who finished three quarters of a length ahead of In Good Spirits.

Somewhat dismissed at odds of 6.50-1, Pass the Plate hit the line in 1:37.36 over a Stall-Wilson Turf Course labeled as “good.” Hernandez hadn’t ridden Pass the Plate before, but after doing his homework and watching her replays, he knew going in what to expect with a filly who does her best running late in the game.

“The race kind of plotted out like I envisioned,” Hernandez said. “With her coming from behind like that, I just needed to try to save as much ground as possible before swinging out and trying to run her (Evil Lyn) down.”

Pass the Plate, a daughter of Temple City, has been a versatile performer throughout her career for trainer Paul McGee. She’s won on both turf and dirt and entered off a second-place finish in Churchill Downs’ November 14 off-the-turf Mrs. Revere (G2). She’s been more prolific on turf, however, as she was stakes-placed three times coming in, including running third in the Tepin at Churchill in May. Pass the Plate is now 4-for-12 lifetime, with earnings of $290,560.

Assistant trainer Roger Edwards was on hand to saddle Pass the Plate and praised owners Bonnie and Tommy Hamilton, who spearheaded a team effort.

“Credit goes to the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton for being patient with her,” Edwards said. “They let her develop, Paul found the race, and Paul does a really good job of pointing a horse to a race and training them right up to it. She never makes it easy but she’s a lot of fun to be around.”

Paradise Farms Corp. and David Staudacher’s Evil Lyn led every step but the last, as Geroux decided to take the initiative when the lead became there for the taking. The daughter of Wicked Strong was favored for trainer Mike Maker off consecutive wins, including Pimlico’s Hilltop two-back in October, and has proven to be a bargain for her new connections, who claimed her for $40,000 seven starts ago. Geroux was abord for Evil Lyn’s optional-claiming win at Churchill November 8, when she stalked early and was up in time late, but with no one showing any early initiative, he took different tactics in the Pago Hop.

“I thought I would lay second or third early but when no one went I decided to take the lead,” Geroux said. “I was able to set very nice fractions. The winner came from the outside and my filly never got a chance to look her in the eye and fight back.”

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Credit: Hodges Photography

Class Prevails as Pixelate Runs Down Bodecream in Woodchopper

Godolphin LLC’s homebred and previous grade 2 winner Pixelate flexed his muscles late under Angel Suarez to run down a tough luck, and ultra-game, pacesetter in Bodecream in the $75,000 Woodchopper for 3-year-olds.

Pixelate, the 1.70-1 favorite, was reserved in seventh early while Bodecream, the 2.80-1 second-choice, was a surprising early leader for James Graham, cutting out sensible fractions of 24.22 and 49.25, though hounded on the lead by 23-1 longshot Doc Boy. The plot heated up off the far turn, with Bodecream dispatching those in closest pursuit and bracing for the challenge of the oncoming closers. He held them all off but Pixelate, who crossed the line in 1:37.47 for the about-1mile Woodchopper, over a Stall-Wilson Turf Course labeled as “good.” Dynadrive closed from 11th to finish third, a half-length behind his Mike Maker-trained stablemate Bodecream.

Pixelate, a son of City Zip, has been a consistent stakes performer for trainer Mike Stidham, with a win in the Del Mar Derby (G2) in September the career highlight . Suarez has had a close relationship with Pixelate throughout, having worked him several times leading up to the Del Mar Derby, and before the Woodchopper as well, which meant he knew his colt was sitting on go.

“I was really confident on this horse,” Suarez said. “I had been working him in the morning, even before the race he won at Santa Anita. I was working him at Fair Hill (this summer) and he was doing amazing and I told Mike the other day, ‘This horse is doing even better than when he won at Santa Anita,’ so I was really confident in him.”

Pixelate has been one of Stidham’s stars from the outset, as he won the Central Park at Aqueduct in December of 2019 and hasn’t looked back since. The Woodchopper was his 11th consecutive stakes start, and he’s now 4-for-14, with $373,900 in earnings, but it doesn’t always come easy.

“Angel and I went over what was going to happen today and I said ‘Look, this horse doesn’t win by lengths, he wins by a head or a neck and you’ve got to time this right,” Stidham said. “It’s all about the ride and the trip you give him, and if you give him the right trip he will win, and you saw what happened. He’s an ultra-consistent horse and he’s always been right there, whether it’s a grade 1 or a listed race like today.”

Repole Stable’s Bodecream has been a model of consistency, but more often than not he finds one or two rivals who are simply better. He has now hit the board in all four stakes starts since joining Mike Maker’s barn. The son of Bodemeister entered off a second, beaten a nose, in Aqueduct’s November 27 Gio Ponti, and was forced to do all the heavy lifting early, which undoubtedly cost him late.

“He broke really sharp so I didn’t take anything away from him,” Graham said. “He was in a great rhythm around the first turn but I didn’t get the opportunity to settle. I was looking for someone else to go but it didn’t happen. The winner is a very nice horse, he was supposed to win, but my horse really tried.”

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Credit: Hodges Photography

Whoa Nellie Keeps On Going in Spanky Broussard

Fox Hill Farms Inc’s Whoa Nellie kept a close eye on the pacesetting Beautiful Trauma early and overpowered her late, posting an authoritative 3 ¾-length win in the $75,000 Joseph E. Spanky Broussard Memorial at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. The Broussard was one of three stakes run on Saturday’s post-Christmas Day card.

Florent Geroux put Whoa Nellie in the game early on in the 1-mile and 70-yard Broussard, and the team didn’t let James Graham and Beautiful Trauma, a confirmed front-runner, get too far away early. The latter made the front and led the way through a very honest half-mile in 47.44, but Whoa Nellie was just a half-length back, and clear of eventual third-place finisher Lady Apple. The leading duo took their tussle to the far turn when Whoa Nellie asserted her class and superiority. She took charge in early stretch and drew off a comfortable winner, stopping the teletimer in 1:43.68 as the .80-1 favorite. Beautiful Trauma held well, considering her early exhorts, and was 1 ½ lengths clear of Lady Apple.

Geroux had never ridden Whoa Nellie before but he was aboard Beautiful Trauma in her recent gate-to-wire win over a one-turn mile in an optional-claimer November 12 at Churchill Downs, so he knew his competition wouldn’t make things easy.

“My gameplan was to sit outside Beautiful Trauma early” Geroux said. “I know she can get very brave when she’s by herself on the lead, so, the idea was to get the jump and first run. My filly might have made the lead too soon but I wanted to get rid of Beautiful Trauma at the beginning of the stretch, since I know she can get brave.”

Whoa Nellie, a 4-year-old daughter of Orb, could be in line for a big 2021 for trainer Larry Jones, as the Broussard was just her second start since February, and she’ll turn the page on 2020 as a soon-to-be 5-year-old with just 12 lifetime starts. She won the Pippin at Oaklawn Park in January then was second in their Bayakoa (G3) a month later, before going to the sidelines for nine months. Jones brought Whoa Nellie back in Churchill Downs’ November 21 Chilukki (G3) at a one-turn mile and she rallied nicely to get third, in what was an effort she clearly needed. She’s now won half of her 12 starts, with earnings of $353,830. Based on a pedigree that suggests she should get better with age, 2021 could be her best year yet.

“We’re looking forward to a big year as the Orb’s have been showing with age they tend to do better,” Jones said. She’s a typical Malibu Moon (damsire), they run well later. She had been off a long time for the other race (Chilukki) and two turns sometimes is easier on a horse than one-turn, since you’re running that first quarter mile full-tilt. I think she’s back to her old self.”

Hoffman Family Racing LLC and Steve Landry’s Beautiful Trauma was stepping up and making her stakes debut for trainer Tom Amoss and never was able to get comfortable on the lead, with Whoa Nellie keeping a close watch on her from the outside. Still, the 3-year-old daughter of Tapiture, who stretched out off her Churchill win, ran huge in defeat and is another with a bright future.

“My filly tried very hard and held them all off but the winner and that’s what you want,” Graham said. “That’s what you want to see. As long as they’re trying that hard, they’ll win a race like that kind of caliber. We lost to a very nice filly and were spotting her some experience too.”

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