09/14/2013 10:05 EDT | Updated 11/14/2013 05:12 EST

Hambletonian champ Royalty For Life captures Canadian Trotting Classic

CAMPBELLVILLE, Ont. - Brian Sears and Royalty For Life joined a very exclusive group Saturday night.

Sears drove the Hambletonian winner to the lead before the halfway point then cruised to a two-length victory in the $686,000 Canadian Trotting Classic for three-year-olds at Mohawk Racetrack.

The American-bred and owned bay colt became just the fifth Hambletonian champion to win this event, joining the likes of Market Share, Muscle Hill, Donato Hanover and Deweycheatumnhowe.

And Royalty For Life, the even-money favourite, earned his sixth win in 11 starts this season in impressive style. He posted a stakes record-tying time of 1:52.2 at Mohawk Racetrack.

"He's a beautiful horse, he just covers the ground," Sears said. "He lets you know when he's good.

"You just call on him and he's there for you."

It was a bounce-back performance for Royalty For Life, who was upset in his elimination event last weekend despite being the heavy favourite. Your So Vain won that race, finishing 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Royalty For Life, which came into the elim fighting a sickness.

"I think the track was a little deeper last week and maybe he wasn't 100 per cent," Sears said. "We overcame it and he was really on his game tonight."

On Saturday night, Your So Vain, driven by Randy Waples of Milton, Ont., had to settle for second while All Laid Out, with driver Yannick Gingras of Sorel, Que., took third.

"It didn't work out quite as good as I wanted," said Waples. "The other horse (Royalty For Life) got away on me, I couldn't reel him in and had too much ground to make up.

"I can't take anything away from my horse. He's an excellent horse and was all trot at the end of the mile."

All Laid Out's trainer Mike Vanderkemp admitted he wasn't crazy about his horse starting the race from the No. 9 hole.

"I didn't like the post position but I knew he could close and if he stayed on his game, he'd have a shot," he said. "I thought he had a better week and I was able to train him a little more and he seemed sharper within the last few days."

The remainder of the field, in order of finish, was: Wheeling N Dealin; Smilin Eli; Corky; Master Of Law; Punxsutawney; Pine Credit; and Toocool Forschool.

Trainer George Ducharme wasn't overly concerned about losing the elimination race, given his horse's less than stellar health. He said the goal was to qualify for the final and make sure Royalty For Life wasn't overly taxed in the process.

"He was a touch sick last week and our goal was just to make sure we got him into the final, not abuse him and have a little horse left," Ducharme said. "He had a good week this week and overcame everything.

"We checked him out, everything was fine and I was confident he'd give a good showing."

Royalty For Life earned his 13th career win in 24 starts — he's also been second five times and third once — and boosted his lifetime earnings past $1.5 million.

It was evident early that Royalty For Life was back on his game Saturday night. Sears took his horse to the lead shortly after the quarter-mile mark in keeping with the race strategy of taking Royalty For Life to the front early.

"I thought when he drew (the No. 6 hole) that was going to be a good spot for him," Ducharme said. "I thought he could make the lead in there.

"I knew he'd get pressed a bit but the way it worked out he made the lead and got a soft quarter and the rest he did all on his own."

When Royalty For Life captured the Hambletonian on Aug. 3, Ducharme remarked then that training such a horse was indeed a dream come true. And on Saturday night, Ducharme was all smiles as his dream season continued.

"This is something you dream about when you're a kid getting into the sport," he said. "It's a dream come true right now for me.

"He just wants to be a good horse, he wants to win all the time. He's very playful, he feels good all the time but it's that desire a lot of them are just born with and what we look for."

Earlier on the card, Gingras drove Father Patrick to an emphatic victory in the $365,000 William Wellwood Memorial Trot for two-year-old colts and geldings.

The 1-9 favourite took the lead at the half-mile point and romped to a six-length win in a stakes, Canadian and track record time of 1:53.4 ahead of 8-1 pick Harper Blue Chip and 15-1 longshot Credit Fashion.

And Paul MacDonell of Guelph, Ont., drove 6-5 favourite Riveting Rosie to victory in the $374,000 Peaceful Way for two-year-old filly trotters.

Riveting Rosie took the final in 1:56.1 ahead of Grammas Girl (25-1) and Game On Hanover (24-1) with White Becomes Her, a whopping 99-1 longshot, taking fourth.