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Watkins Battles To Grassroots Win At KD

Published: June 27, 2010 2:04 am ET

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Talented local trotter Watkins extended his win streak to three with an impressive sprint to the finish in the fourth of nine $24,000 Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots divisions at Kawartha Downs on Saturday evening.

Starting from Post 7 with regular reinsman Doug Brown in the bike, fan favourite Watkins was 10 lengths off the pace when early speedster Indigo Hall (Stephen Byron) reached the opening quarter in :28. Indigo Hall continued to lead the field of three-year-old trotting colts to the :59 half, then handed control of the race over to the fans’ second choice, Krakatoa (Mike Saftic), who clocked the 1:28.2 three-quarters.

When Krakatoa stepped to the outside in preparation for his assault on the lead, Brown moved Watkins out into the flow and was sitting third on the outside behind Krakatoa and Ranchester (Paul Walker). Once Krakatoa achieved his goal, Watkins was sitting second on the outside behind Ranchester, and as the field charged around the final turn those three colts pulled away from their peers. Less than three lengths separated the trio as they straightened out for home, but Krakatoa and Watkins left everyone else behind as they battled tooth and nail to the wire.

Once the dust had settled, Watkins had earned a quarter-length victory in 1:58, leaving Krakatoa to settle for second, with Ranchester eight and a half-lengths back in third.

Bowmanville resident Brown drives Watkins for trainer Dr. A.J. Peter Johnston of Peterborough and his partner Watkins Equine Inc. of Newcastle. The Striking Sahbra gelding is the first foal from Sarong Hall, who campaigned her way to earnings of $209,881 for the partners during her racing career.

Raced just three times as a two-year-old, Watkins has been impressive this season, and now boasts a record of four wins, one second and one third in six starts for earnings of $35,190. The gelding kicked off his win streak with a 1:56.4 personal best at Mohawk Racetrack on June 7, then followed it up with a victory in overnight action at Kawartha Downs on June 19 in preparation for Saturday’s Grassroots contest.

With a second-place finish in the Grassroots season opener at Western Fair Raceway on May 26, Watkins currently sits in a tie for second spot in the division standings with a total of 75 points.

Port Perry resident James Walker also had reason to celebrate on Saturday as Keystone Swagger earned a Grassroots trophy in the last division. In rein to Mike Saftic, the Angus Hall son also employed a come from behind strategy to secure the 1:58 victory over Lend Rover (Keith Oliver). Fan favourite Sombrero Hall (Stephen Byron), owned by trainer John Bax of Peterborough and his partners Harry Locke of Oshawa, Don Allensen of Camlachie and Glengate Farms of Campbellville, rounded out the top three.

Walker shares ownership on Keystone Swagger with Sugar Rush Stable of Georgetown, Ralph Piller of St. Catharines, and Pears Avenue Stables of Toronto. The colt opened his Ontario Sires Stakes season at the Gold Series level, but failed to advance out of his elimination, so trainer Garth Gordon opted to test the Grassroots waters.

Saftic also scored a Grassroots victory with Murray Brethour trainee Northern Spark in the seventh race. Northern Spark took control of the race heading for the halfway marker and stayed game through the stretch to earn the half length victory over Bax trainee Incredible Kadabra (Stephen Byron). Markofdistinction (Jonathan Drury) was two and a quarter lengths back in third.

The 1:59.4 win was Northern Spark’s second through seven sophomore starts. Sunderland resident Brethour shares ownership on the Angus Hall son with Noblock Racing Stable and Springwater Racing Stables of Collingwood.

Drivers Keith Oliver and Wayne Henry also made multiple appearances in the Kawartha Downs winner's circle on Saturday, with Oliver earning three Grassroots trophies and Henry picking up two.

Oliver opened the Grassroots program with a 2:00 victory aboard Pio Power, who bested War King Ton (Pat Hudon) and Nautilus Seelster (Wayne Henry). Christopher Beaver trains Pio Power for John Giumarra of White Plains, New York and Trish Foulk of Dover, Delaware. The Andover Image son was also a winner in the Grassroots season opener, and currently sits tied for top spot in the standings.

Earning the natural Grassroots double with a victory in the second division, Oliver also teamed Boogie Woogie to the fastest mile of the nine divisions, halting the teletimer at 1:57.3. Lynden resident Oliver owns and trains Boogie Woogie, who hit the wire a commanding four lengths ahead of Rodeo (Mike Saftic) and Mc Cloud (Roy Jeffries). The Ken Warkentin gelding boasts an impressive record of three wins and one second in five starts this season, including a Grassroots victory at Western Fair Raceway on May 26.

Oliver’s final Grassroots win came in the tenth race with lightly regarded BI Barrister, who stuck a neck in front of Oaxaca to secure the 1:59.3 win. Fan favourite Angus King had to settle for second.

Larry Walker trains BI Barrister for James Howie of Etobicoke and Stephen Malach of North York. Saturday’s win was the Village Barrister son’s first in eight lifetime starts.

Trainer-driver Wayne Henry teamed Pointe To Pointe to his second straight Grassroots win in Race 4, going gate to wire in 1:59.1. The Mutineer gelding, owned by the Henry Stable of Arthur and Jeffrey Thomson of Chesley, bested Rehab Mountain (Mike Saftic) and Winstar Wannabe (Doug Brown).

The Arthur resident then used the same tactics to land Tymal Tyme a 2:00.1 win in Race 8, reaching the wire ahead of P L Debonair (Gord Brown) and Coco Mustang (James MacDonald). The Henry Stable, Daniel McCann of Parkhill, and 1443059 Ontario Inc. of Oldcastle share ownership on the Angus Hall gelding, who also scored a runner-up finish in the Grassroots season opener.

The other Grassroots division went to Alltheway Abra and trainer-driver Jason Gilchrist, who clocked a 1:58.1 mile. Vermo (Per Henrikson) and Icarus Kemp (Mark Steacy) completed the ninth race triactor. Dr. Frederick Albert of Prescott owns Kadabra son Alltheway Abra, who is now a perfect three for three in his sophomore campaign.

The three-year-old trotting colts will resume their Grassroots rivalry on July 11 at Rideau Carleton Raceway. Kawartha Downs hosts its second Ontario Sires Stakes event on July 24 when the lightening fast three-year-old pacing fillies arrive at the Fraserville oval for their third Grassroots skirmish.

To view Saturday's results, click here.

(With files from OSS)

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