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>Veteran trainer Per Henriksen finds himself in what can be termed a good dilemma.

When he sends top contenders Charlie Is A Joker and Guiltywithanexcuse postward in the $50,000 General Brock Series final on Monday at Woodbine Racetrack, Henriksen isn't certain which one offers him the best bet to take all the spoils.

“I don’t know which one is the best horse,” said the Norwood, Ont. resident of the pair. “I think the one that might get the best trip is the better horse. They are both very good horses and they are racing very good right now.”

The conditioner feels the four-year-old geldings have admirable, yet different merits. Charlie Is A Joker is an ultra-consistent performer, whereas Guiltywithanexcuse boasts a little more speed.

When Henriksen started to train Charlie Is A Joker, he didn’t know what to make of the bay.

“I got him last year as a three-year-old,” recalled Henriksen, who earned the 2009 O’Brien Award of Horsemanship. “I think he hadn’t even qualified before I got him. He is kind of a laid-back horse, a little lazy, and I even went out there and raced him and he won almost every time at the B tracks. I really didn’t know I had a good horse.”

As a sophomore, Charlie Is A Joker, who is owned and bred by Thomas and Elizabeth Rankin of St. Catharines, Ont., never missed the board between Rideau Carleton Raceway and Kawartha Downs, winning seven races, with one second and one third-place finish.

On December 1, 2011, the son of Angus Hall-Keystone Caprice made his debut at Woodbine.

“I told Mr. Rankin that it’s time to try him at the big track and of course, he won there, too,” said Henriksen of the gelding, who had crafted a nine-race win streak between his three and four-year-old campaign. “We discovered later on, as he kept on winning, that he was a good horse.”

Charlie Is A Joker sports a solid lifetime record of 15-2-2 in 20 outings with $129,147 in career earnings. His only miss was in the Don Mills Series final on February 27. After a win and a second-place effort in the preliminary legs, the trotter finished seventh in the $75,000 final.

He rebounded from the off-key effort and swept the first two legs of the General Brock Series. Henriksen hopes a better result in the final is in store this time around.

“If he gets the right kind of race, I think he can beat them,” he said. “At least he has a good chance to beat them. There are some good horses in there, so he has to step up.”

His stablemate, Guiltywithanexcuse, who was purchased at the 2011 Harrisburg Sale, has had a productive start to his aged campaign. The trotter has made five trips to the winner’s circle and has one second-place finish in nine seasonal starts, having banked $50,840 for owners Steve Organ of Aurora, Ont. and Asa Farm of Norwood, Ont.

But, the son of Classic Photo-Gold Medalist has also been guilty (no pun intended) of making a couple of miscues.

“He made a couple of breaks on us there and we just changed some equipment on him a little bit, nothing major, and since then he has been racing very well,” said Henriksen of the seven-time career winner with $90,910 in lifetime earnings.

“I changed the bit on him,” he continued. “He is a little grabby and I put a bit on him that was a little too sharp. He didn’t like it and made a break behind the gate two times in a row. Since I changed that, it’s been smooth sailing.”

So smooth in fact that Guiltywithanexcuse lowered his lifetime-best to 1:54 in the first leg of the General Brock Series, which was then followed by a second-place finish in the second leg.

“They are both sound and happy horses, everything is fine with them,” said Henriksen. “They are coming into the final I feel on a good foot. We just got to hope for the best.”

The nine-horse General Brock battle is set for four-year-old trotters, who are non-winners of three races or $75,000 lifetime as of midnight December 31, 2011.

Guiltywithanexcuse will leave Post 1 for driver Chris Christoforou and Charlie Is A Joker will leave Post 5 with Sylvain Filion in the bike.