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Ontario’s world-class three-year-old pacing colts waged a pair of $99,800 Gold Series battles at Georgian Downs on Sunday (July 25) and it was Second Bruiser and Desperate Man who emerged victorious from the fray.

Favourite Second Bruiser did the bulk of the work on the front in the first division, leading the field through fractions of :27.4, :55.3 and 1:22.4 before pulling away to a 2-3/4-length win in a personal best 1:50.2. Century Heineken finished second and Bettor Of The West was third.

“He’s just a good horse, he’s been good since he come back this year and I wanted to drive him like I thought he was the best, because I thought he was the best,” said driver James MacDonald. “I pushed him a little bit, but he felt like if someone had come to him he’d have given me a little more too. He’s a tough horse, he’s just a good horse.”

Guelph-resident MacDonald drives Second Bruiser for trainer Vernon Cochrane of Fergus and his co-owner Stefan Piekos of Palgrave, Ont., who also bred the son of Believeinbruiser and Dear Vicky. The gelding was undefeated in four Grassroots starts as a two-year-old, including the season ending Grassroots Championship, and MacDonald said the pacer has developed into a more complete racehorse over the last eight months.

“At two he was kind of high strung and he’d get really worked up, and this year he’s just a complete professional,” said MacDonald, who currently leads all drivers in the Ontario Sires Stakes point standings. “You can do anything you want with him. You can leave with him if you stir him up, you can take him back, you can do anything you want, so it kind of gives you a little more leeway behind the gate to make up your mind.”

MacDonald needed that flexibility on Sunday when Powertrain went off-stride in front of Second Bruiser around the first turn, and then Century Heineken took a brief turn on the lead heading by the grandstand for the first time. Second Bruiser was able to accelerate and decelerate as needed and keep enough energy in reserve to sprint down the stretch.

The win was Second Bruiser’s first in Ontario Sires Stakes action this season and his second of the sophomore campaign. Through four starts he now has two wins and two seconds.

The second division gave fans a thrilling stretch drive that required a photo to determine the winner. From post 2, Meadowlands Pace champion Lawless Shadow took early command and led the field to a :26.3 opening quarter with P L Ozzy in the pocket, Desperate Man angling into third and reigning division champion Bulldog Hanover fourth. The colts followed Lawless Shadow to a :54.1 half without changing position, but as he powered to a 1:21.3 three-quarters, driver Trevor Henry tipped Desperate Man into the outer lane and Jody Jamieson followed suit with Bulldog Hanover. Lawless Shadow and Desperate Man waged a fierce battle in the stretch and the photograph determined that Desperate Man had a nose in front at the 1:49.4 finish. Favourite Bulldog Hanover finished one-half length back in third. All three colts are by sire Shadow Play.

“We didn’t even know if he got there, that horse (Lawless Shadow) is iron tough,” said trainer Kathy Cecchin. “There were a lot of people around the little booth there and everybody was saying something different about who got it and I’m like, you know what, he raced good and that’s really all that matters. He looked like himself so if he didn’t get it then we’re still really happy with him.”

The trainer and her husband John Cecchin share ownership of Desperate Man with their daughter and son-in-law Nicole and Paul Davies and the Arthur, Ont. residents had been worried about the colt’s performance through his first three sophomore starts. A three-time winner in the Gold Series at two, Desperate Man had not finished better than third before Sunday’s personal best effort.

“I feel like we’ve been in the fight to get right and we just haven’t been there, (we were) starting to get a little doubt creeping in,” said Cecchin. “He’s such a good feeling horse, jumps around in his stall and he’s always happy, and he was standing in the back corner and that’s just not him, very out of character for him. Now just the last week and a half he’s been standing at the front of the stall, more bright all the time, eating good and everything. So we’re awfully happy. We were getting worried that maybe he just wasn’t coming back.”

Desperate Man will have a chance to add to his sophomore résumé when the three-year-old pacing colts return to Woodbine Mohawk on Aug. 7 for their third Gold Series Leg.

Ontario Sires Stakes action returns to the Innisfil oval on Tuesday, Aug. 3 with the second Grassroots Leg for the two-year-old trotting fillies.

The co-featured $13,000 Preferred 2 Trot went to I Got The Looks, who soared off cover to land an 11-1 upset in 1:54.3.

Power And Grace grabbed the lead to a :27 first quarter and slowed the tempo with Arrakis in the pocket toward a :56.3 half. Driver Trevor Henry angled I Got The Looks off the pegs to race third over past the half and advance in the two-wide flow led by Big Rich heading to three-quarters in 1:25.1. Henry launched I Got The Looks to the center of the track around the final turn and rallied to win by a length over Big Rich, with Arrakis taking third.

A four-year-old stallion by E L Titan, I Got The Looks won his fifth race from 21 starts this season and his 11th from 54 overall, earning $129,125. Patrick Shepherd trains the $25.90 winner for owner Triple S Equine.

(with Ontario Sires Stakes)