Efforts are under way to revive the Mid-Atlantic Championships Series, known as MATCH, perhaps in 2012, the program’s founder said.
When last held in 2001, MATCH was a seven-month-long racing series of existing stakes at several racetracks in the Mid-Atlantic region. The races were tied together through promotions and bonuses for owners, trainers, and jockeys.
Bonuses were valued at about $500,000 when the series was last held. Purses for the stakes in various divisions totaled about $3.5 million at a time when only two tracks in the region had gaming machines.
“There was a commitment by tracks and horsemen’s groups to revisit it in 2011 so we can plan for 2012,” Alan Foreman, chief executive officer of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and creator of MATCH, said Aug. 15. “We’ll be starting those discussions in the next few weeks. Does it mean we’ll have the series (next year)? No, but that’s the goal.”
The series was suspended in 2002 because of uncertainty over stakes schedules in Maryland and racing dates in New Jersey. Foreman had hoped to restore MATCH in 2002 and subsequent years, but those plans didn’t materialize.
Foreman said the series would fit well with plans by The Jockey Club, as part of its recently unveiled report on Thoroughbred racing, to better coordinate stakes and racing schedules.
“The MATCH series is tailor-made for those recommendations,” Foreman said. “We’d like to bring it back. There are opportunities there.”
Foreman said the series would work with stakes at Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course in Maryland; Delaware Park in Delaware; Monmouth Park in New Jersey; and Parx Racing in Pennsylvania. But he said he’s interested in having two Penn National Gaming Inc. tracks—Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Pennsylvania and Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia—participate as well.
Both of those tracks have gaming machines and have greatly expanded their open stakes schedules. The key could be getting horsemen’s groups, which would ante up the bonus money, to agree to participate.
PNGI vice president of racing Chris McErlean said Penn National and Charles Town are interested in the series.
“We’re already participated in two or three meetings,” McErlean said. “Alan is the ring leader on this. We’re interested at Penn National, but our participation might be kind of limited, maybe one or two of our stakes.
“The Pennsylvania HBPA has expressed some interest. There has been no firm outreach to the Charles Town horsemen. The horsemen put up the money for the bonuses, and the tracks prorate money for marketing. We’re open to doing that.”
THA affiliates represent horsemen in Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey, which makes negotiations easier for Foreman.
Cooperation in the region could help get MATCH back on the schedule. Tracks in the Mid-Atlantic region and New York have committed to talks on coordination of stakes, other races, and even racing schedules moving forward.