by Brian J. Mazurek, for Buffalo Raceway
HAMBURG, N.Y. --- It's the best card thus far of the 2016 season from top to bottom at Buffalo Raceway on Saturday night (Feb. 27) as the 12-race program will carry $116,500 in purse money.
The featured race is the $24,000 finals of the popular Niatross Knockout Claiming Series along with the $10,000 consolation event. Bolstering the program will be the highly competitive $10,000 Open Pace as well.
The evening will mark the return of Jim Morrill Jr. as he begins his 2016 campaign. It's safe to say he's not easing into the year as he is slated to drive in 11 of 12 races. Morrill Jr. won 264 races last year and more than $5.4 million in purses.
Also appearing at the Hamburg half-mile oval will be driver Bruce Aldrich Jr. who sits eighth place nationally in victories this year with 65. He was fourth in 2015 with 663.
After three consecutive weeks of eliminations, the Niatross finale has eight combatants ready to go at it for the title which is scheduled for the eighth race.
Mach It Paid (Jim McNeight) is the 5-2 morning line favorite starting from the four post. He has finished either first or second in all six starts in 2016.
Flashy Trick drew the rail with current Buffalo Raceway leading driver David McNeight III and has been installed at 7-2. The 7-year-old gelding has won two legs in the series including a wire-to-wire trip in 1:58 last week in the semi-finals.
Beechwood Wayne rides a two-race win streak but has the seven post with Drew Monti slated to be in the bike at 5-1.
Others in the race include Midas Blue Chip (Truman Gale), Delightful Caitlin (Ron Beback Jr.), Tymal Torch (Ray Fisher Jr.), M G Jade (Morrill Jr.) and First Of Fun (Aldrich Jr.).
The consolation race has Aberarder Smitty drawing the rail at 5-2 with Morrill Jr. Aberarder Smitty took a four-race win streak into last week's semi-finals but finished fifth, thus was relegated to the consolation.
The Open Pace looks to be a wide-open affair with three horses coming in on torrid streaks. Cobble Beach has been victorious in three of his four 2016 starts and was assigned the eight post with McNeight III aboard.
Western Alumni (Jim McNeight) arrives on a two-race win streak including last week's Open while Youwillwishyouhad has been a runner up the past two weeks at this level, losing by a neck each time.
And now throw the dangerous China Dream into the mix. He has a win, second and a pair of third place finishes in his last four appearances in the Open. It's a perfect recipe for a interesting contest which is set for the fifth race.
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