Two-year-old trotting gelding Petro Dealin will make his Ontario Sires Stakes debut at Hiawatha Horse Park on Saturday, July 25 and trainer Darryl Laver is hoping the youngster can hold his own in his $23,150 Grassroots division.

“I don’t know, I think he should be okay in there,” said Laver. “It’s his home track, and he’s a lot smarter than his mother was.”

Petro Dealin is a second generation member of Laver’s breeding program, out of broodmare Harleigh Ryder, who is a daughter of his good race mare Spare Time Rozie. Laver admits that the son of Wheeling N Dealin did not make much of an early impression, but with each step toward the races — starting with a yearling video last summer — the owner-breeder’s opinion of the trotter has grown.

“I had three, and I thought he was third,” admitted the Petrolia resident. “Of the three I had, he ended up turning out to be the best one. I sold one and I kept two, and the other one he’s out in the field.

“He is very, very smart. He never trained with a horse; I trained him by himself all winter. The first day they had qualifiers in the morning (May 30), that was the first time he trained with a horse. He followed a pacer in the schooler, there was only two of us in it and it was a three-year-old pacer, and he sat on his back like he had sat behind a horse every day of his life. And he tipped out and he went by that horse in about three steps in the stretch. He went in 2:06, which was a big mile that day,” said Laver, adding that the fastest trotting qualifier clocked at Hiawatha Horse Park on May 30 was 2:03.4. “And then I qualified him in 2:02.3 the next week and he got interfered with that day and he just went around them like nothing, it didn’t even bother him. He’s a really smart horse.”

Since his June 6 qualifier Petro Dealin has made two starts. The first came at his hometown oval on June 13 where he finished third with a 2:03.4 effort and the second was at Woodbine Mohawk Park on June 25 where he finished seventh in 2:00.

“I thought he’d trot in 1:58 when I took him to Toronto there that second start and he just come to a halt in the stretch and trotted in 2:00, but he was sick, a couple days later it was pouring out of him,” said Laver. “He missed the first stake, it was last Saturday in Georgian, he missed that one, but he’s got this one and Dresden next week (Aug. 3), two close ones for me.”

Petro Dealin will start from Post 6 in Saturday’s Grassroots test and Laver will hand the lines over to Garrett Rooney for the gelding’s Ontario Sires Stakes debut.

“I like to drive them myself for a bit, but he’s nice to drive, he’ll get along good with him,” said Laver, adding that Rooney has had his eye on Petro Dealin since the May 30 schooler. “Garrett really likes this horse. He was in the schooler with me and every time that we get talking he says, ‘I like that colt, just put me down on that colt’. So I texted him this morning and I said, ‘You better check the entries out’, and he come back, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘Because you’re going to be driving’, ‘Oh cool’, he says.”

Rooney and Petro Dealin face a field of eight in the sixth race on Saturday, including three colts that competed in the Grassroots season opener at Georgian Downs on July 11 and one that made his debut at the Gold Series level on July 9 at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

The trotting colts will kick off the 12:30 pm program in Race 1 and will also compete in Races 2, 4 and 6. Fans can watch all the action on the Hiawatha Horse Park live stream and programs will be available to download from the racetrack’s website.