Buffalo Raceway's co-featured $11,500 Open Pace may have been scratched down to a field of four but that didn't stop them from putting on quite a show on Saturday night. Western Conquest ($8.90) was the headliner as he went gate-to-wire, winning a terrific stretch duel against Classic American N, to register a nose victory in 1:53.2. The time tied the track record for older pacing horses set by Utah Beach in 2017.
In the co-main event, the $11,500 Open Trot, Empire Earl N ($3.30) had to get reacquainted with the inside post and took full advantage of it, coasting to a front-running 1-1/2 length score over Chelseas Chance in 1:57.4 over the fast surface.
With China Dream and Sir Ziggy's Z Tam both excused due to illness, it left a quartet to duke it out in the Open Pace.
Scoring from the inside, Western Conquest (Ray Fisher Jr.) zoomed immediately to the lead, setting fractions of :28.0, :56.4 and 1:25.2. With a quarter-mile to pace, it appeared the first over and heavily favored Upfront Countryboy (Shawn Gray) was ready to launch a serious bid, but that quickly fizzled out.
It left Western Conquest to deal with the pocket sitting Classic American N (Ron Beback Jr.) who made a valiant attempt to collar the pace-setter but lost by a nose in the photo. Best Ears (John Cummings Jr.) took the show position.
Owned by the Tanah Merah Farms LLC and trained by Ryan Swift, it was the fifth win in 12 outings for the 7-year-old horse Western Conquest (American Ideal-Aries Conquest). The victory jumped his seasonal earnings to $28,575 and $287,136 lifetime.
It's been quite a while since Empire Earl N drew the inside post and Buffalo Raceway's defending Trotter of the Year felt right at home, storming off the gate and never looked back.
Setting moderate splits of :30.0, :59.1 and 1:28.3, Empire Earl N (Monti) used a :28.4 last panel to hold off any potential threats from Chelseas Chance (Billy Davis Jr.) and Bold Dresser (Shawn McDonough) who had to settle for second and third place respectively.
Owned by Kimberly Asher and conditioned by Riley Asher-Stalbaum, it was the sixth win in 19 appearances this year for the 10-year-old gelded Empire Earl N (Earl-Santa Nita). The victory upped his 2018 earnings to $46,618 and $208,458 in his career.
Fisher Jr. and Monti completed the evening with driving triples. Trainers Steve Kiblin, JD Perrin and Swift each had a pair of victories. (Buffalo)