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Terry Cornell and Gordon Rayner arrived at the June 10 Spring Fling Sale with an open mind and went home with three-year-old trotting gelding Back To Peace, who makes his Ontario Sires Stakes debut for the partners on Monday evening at Grand River Raceway.

“We were looking to replace one of the horses we just lost, Gord Rayner and I, so we weren’t really sure what we were going to buy. We just went there with an open mind and looking for the best horse we could find, and that was the one we came up with,” explains Rockwood resident Cornell. “He’d been racing well at Mohawk and he showed some fast times, you know qualified in 1:56, and he was from a good farm, good people, so we thought, let’s take a chance on him and hope we do well.”

Since Back To Peace moved into Rayner’s barn he has started twice at Mohawk Racetrack, logging a third-place finish on June 18 and a sixth-place finish on June 25. Cornell says the Angus Hall son is a friendly, easy-going horse and they are hoping to recoup some of his $36,000 purchase price with a solid outing from Post 2 in the third Grassroots division on Monday.

“He’s a friendly guy, he likes to be around people, he’s just like a puppy dog to have around. He likes people petting him and being around him,” says the owner. “If you put him in the barn before the races you wonder if he’s going to fall asleep or not and then just before the race he kind of perks up when he gets out there and he’s all business then.”

Dundas resident Rayner will steer Back To Peace on Monday, after handing the lines over to Jody Jamieson for the Mohawk starts, and Cornell expects that will be the pattern for as long as the trotter continues to follow the Grassroots circuit. Former trainer Frank Colville started Back To Peace in the Grassroots season opener at Mohawk in May, where he finished seventh after making an early break, but the gelding missed the second event at Sudbury Downs on June 16.

Although they have not raced Back To Peace on a half-mile track yet, Cornell says the gelding has been working well over the half-mile oval at his training facility and the partners do not expect Grand River to hold any surprises for the youngster.

“The farm he stays at is Wayne Langille’s farm, and it’s a half mile track, so he’s been training out there and he’s been doing pretty well out there, so we don’t think there will be any problems on the half-mile. At least we’re hoping not anyway,” says the longtime owner. “So we’re hoping for the best anyway, then we’ll go from there.”

Back To Peace is the only horse Cornell owns, three years after he returned to the business following more than a decade-long absence, and his recent retirement is allowing a more hands-on role than he was able to enjoy in his 20s and 30s.

“I just retired this year so I go down there and kind of fart around with them and just have some fun with them, so we’re just hoping to break even this year and have a little bit of fun,” he explains.

“That’s what I’m hoping for anyway. As long as he just pays the bills then I’m happy; and maybe a little bit better would be a bonus,” he adds with a chuckle.

Back To Peace and Rayner face seven other colts hoping to earn a share of the $40,000 Grassroots purse on Monday, including Grassroots division winner Hey AJ from Post 6 and former Gold elimination winner Northern Escort from Post 7.

In total, 75 three-year-old trotting colts and geldings are headed to Grand River on Monday, battling for $216,000 in nine Grassroots events.

The trotting colts kick off Grand River Raceway’s Monday evening action at 7:05 p.m. and are also featured in Races 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10 and 11.