Starting from post 6, Horse Trader sat penultimate in the field through much of the mile as Enduring Strength rang up fractions of :29.2, :59.3 and 1:29.1. Coming off the final turn trainer-driver Paul Walker sent Horse Trader three wide and, when the colt squared up in the stretch, he shifted into high gear and sprinted by the field to a one-and-one-quarter length victory in 2:00.1. Lifeisgood Hanover also closed to be second, leaving pacesetter Enduring Strength to settle for third.
“We were wondering at the three-quarter pole if he was going to be able to do a lot, but he trotted home like a champion,” said Dr. David Grant, whose Oaklea Farm Inc. bred and owns the son of Wheeling N Dealin and Oaklea Wand.
“He was down in Georgia and Paul did tell me that he had a big motor right away, but I’ve learned not to get too excited,” said Grant. “And he’s a late May colt so I thought that if we could race him a bit at two that would be great.”
Horse Trader also used a late kick to win his qualifier at Woodbine Mohawk Park by three-quarters of a length in 2:01.4. With that effort and Sunday’s Grassroots win under his belt, the colt looks poised to exceed Grant’s modest expectations.
“He just loves to be on the track. I’ve never actually had a horse that was so much like that,” said the Simcoe, ON resident. “His barn manners aren’t maybe the best, he’s a bit of a twerp, but as soon as he gets on the track he’s perfect. We’re very lucky to have a colt like that.”
The second $23,150 division went to local colt Aussie Lover, who left from post 7, took command heading for the half and went on to a one-length victory in 2:01.4. Remember Titan closed well to be second and pocket-sitter Lexus Markus completed the top three.
Stephen Byron drove Aussie Lover to the win for owner-trainer Gino Cicero of Melancthon, ON. Byron also piloted the Angus Hall colt in his first start—a fifth-place finish in a June 30 two-year-old race at Georgian Downs—and said that outing helped Cicero prep Aussie Lover for his Grassroots debut.
“I thought last week there he raced good, but I didn’t think he was getting a hold of the track, so they changed a few things on him and it turned out to work, so that was good,” said Byron. “He raced well. He’s going to be a steady horse, he might not be the fastest, but I think he’ll be a steady horse,”
JCs Royal Tease rounded the Grassroots winners with a 2:02.3 effort in the $23,500 last division. Like Aussie Lover, the Royalty For Life colt left sharply from post 6 and led the field to a :30.1 quarter. Driver Trevor Henry and JCs Royal Tease then watched from the pocket as Fit Bit and Tuscan Titan battled for control through the 1:01.2 half and 1:32.1 three-quarters. In the stretch Henry sent JCs Royal Tease after the leaders and the colt powered home to a one-and-one-half length win in 2:02.3. Fit Bit and Tuscan Titan settled for second and third.
“He should make a nice horse,” said Arthur, ON resident Henry, who leases the colt in partnership with his wife, trainer Shannon Henry. “He has a few driving issues, but can go fast for a piece.”
JCs Royal Tease also qualified at Woodbine Mohawk Park on June 28, finishing third, 12 lengths behind Horse Trader.
The pair may meet up again when the two-year-old trotting colts and geldings head to Kawartha Downs for the second Grassroots event of their season on July 20.
The Ontario Sires Stakes will be back at Georgian Downs next Sunday, July 14 with the first Grassroots event for the two-year-old trotting fillies. Post time for Sunday’s program is 6 p.m.
Alongside the Grassroots action, Pretty Handsome brushed to a three-quarter lengths victory in the $11,500 Preferred 2 Pace. The four-year-old Mach Three gelding stalked American Wiggle as he paced splits of :26.4, :55.4 and 1:23.4. Driver Trevor Henry tipped the Andrew McCabe trainee from the pylons moving to three-quarters and slid past the pacesetter through the stretch to win in 1:52 with pocket-sitter Fashiononthebeach sliding into second. American Wiggle held third.
Owned by Glenview Livestock Ltd., Pretty Handsome won his seventh race from 17 starts this season and his 20th from 37 overall. The $6.20 winner surpassed $200,000 in earnings.
Indigo Art capped the card with a 1:52.1 victory in the $8,500 Preferred 3 Pace. Driver Anthony Haughan placed the five-year-old Art Official gelding fifth as Jay Eye Em led through a :27.3 first quarter. The Rod Boyd trainee gradually cut into the leader's margin through a :56.1 half and progressed uncovered through three-quarters in 1:23.4. Indigo Art took the lead from Jay Eye Em coming towards the finish and held off a late charge from Pillage And Burn, who finished second. Jay Eye Em held third.
A homebred for Rob Key, Indigo Art won his third race from 19 starts this season and his 12th in 61 overall, earning $96,305. He paid $7.30 to win.