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The 31st edition of the Des Smith Classic featuring seven of racing’s ultimate warriors was contested at Rideau Carleton Raceway on Sunday evening, and it turned out to be a real knock ‘em down and drag ‘em out thriller from start to finish.

All eyes were on Betterthancheddar, who was sent off as the odds-on favourite, and he didn’t disappoint an army of backers despite a gritty performance from a first-over Foiled Again.

George Brennan blasted Betterthancheddar off the gate from Post 5, but Doug McNair was leaving just as quickly with Aracache Hanover from Post 2. Those two scrapped to the mid-way point of the opening turn before Betterthancheddar worked his way to the lead and hung up an opening panel clocked in :26.2. Betterthancheddar cruised in front of the grandstand and proceeded to take the group to the half in :54.4 while feeling steady pressure from Foiled Again and Brett Miller.

Those two pacing titans went toe-to-toe across the backstretch, and little separated them as they streaked past the three-quarter pole in 1:21.1. The nip-and-tuck battle continued all the way down the lane and as the wire approached fans found themselves on the edge of their seats as the heavyweights hit the wire in 1:49.4. The photo finish camera was put to good use and after close examination the ORC Judges posted Betterthancheddar’s number on top over a dead-game Foiled Again. Machal Jackson rounded out the top three finishers in the $176,500 tilt.

“It seemed like about an hour-long photo,” said trainer Casie Coleman. “That was a slugfest right there and Foiled Again is a really good horse. Both horses raced unbelievable.

“He gets a bit of a break now at Darlene Hayes’ farm and then we’ll get him ready for the Canadian Pacing Derby next,” Coleman added.

Steve Calhoun of Chatham and the West Wins Stable of Cambridge, ON share ownership on the four-year-old son of Bettors Delight-Lady Ashlee Ann, who improved his 2012 record to 6-1-0 from his first seven starts of the season. The 16-time winner, who turned in his 10th sub-1:50 win to date, upped his lifetime earnings to $1,222,866 with the victory.