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>Royal Artist held on for a neck victory in the second last $24,000 Grassroots division at Hiawatha Horse Park on Thursday evening, posting the quickest mile of the seven hard fought three-year-old pacing colt contests.


Taking full advantage of Royal Artist’s advantageous post position, driver Robert Shepherd fired the gelding along the rail to a :27.2 opening quarter, reaching the opening station three lengths ahead of their peers. The duo carried on through a :56 half and a 1:23.3 three-quarters without seeing a challenger and then dug in hard down the stretch to hold off pocket sitter Terror Time and hit the wire a neck on top in 1:52.3.


Ciona Bromach sprinted hard from the rear of the field down the stretch to secure the third-place finisher’s share of the $24,000 Grassroots purse, but was still six lengths back of the leaders.


Owned by Buckeye Investments of Cornwall, ON, Royal Artist has made three appearances in the winner’s circle this season through 11 starts. Cambridge, ON resident Casie Coleman trains the son of Royal Mattjesty, who boasts one win, one second and one fifth in Grassroots competition for a total of 80 points in the race toward a post season berth.


Trevor Henry, currently ranked fourth in the Ontario Sires Stakes driver’s standings, piloted a pair of sophomore pacers to Grassroots glory on Thursday.


The Arthur, ON resident’s first win came in the sixth race when he put Stompin Tom Creek on the front heading for the halfway marker and the Western Terror son sailed home to a one and one-quarter length victory in 1:53.2. Division point leader Modern Era picked up the second-place cheque, with early pacesetter Tigers Mattjesty settling for third.


The win was the second straight for Stompin Tom Creek, who was also victorious at Georgian Downs on July 27. Shaun McDonald of Rockwood, ON trains the Western Terror half-brother to $210,041 winner Goose Creek for Glenview Livestock Ltd. of Wallenstein. Through 11 starts the gelding now has two wins, one second, one third and earnings of $27,790 to his credit.


Four races later Henry was back in front of the Hiawatha Horse Park fans with Bandexter, who out-sprinted fan favourite and division point leader What The Sheik down the stretch to claim a three-quarter length win in 1:52.4. Longshot Ashton Seelster was well behind the leaders in third.


The win was the second straight in Grassroots action for Henry and Bandexter, who were also victorious at Hanover Raceway on July 17. Norwich, ON resident Wayne Lee trains the Banner Yankee son for his partner Tracey Groen, also of Norwich. Through nine starts the gelding has an impressive four wins and one second for earnings of $38,860. Thursday’s win boosted Bandexter’s Grassroots point total to 100, for a share of the division lead with Modern Era and What The Sheik.


In the last Grassroots division, Henry passed up a drive aboard St Lads Cable Guy in favour of Stonebridge Memoir and watched his former mount beat him to the wire by half a length. Paul Mackenzie replaced Henry aboard St Lads Cable Guy and guided the Royal Mattjesty son to a 1:54 victory. Source Of Power rounded out the twelfth race Triactor.


Robert Mawson of Parkhill, ON trains St Lads Cable Guy for Ailsa Craig Boys Stable of Ailsa Craig, ON, and has sent the colt into battle 13 times this season, resulting in three wins, three seconds and one third and earnings of $24,070.


The other Grassroots trophies were taken home by This Is Wyatt (1:53), Elm Grove Joker (1:53.4) and Diablo Seelster (1:52.4). The three-year-old pacing colts will make their fourth Grassroots start at Grand River Raceway on Aug. 23.


Ontario Sires Stakes excitement returns to Hiawatha Horse Park on Thursday, Sept. 9 with Grassroots action for the three-year-old trotting colts.