Outside Forces Keep MATCH Series on Hold

MATCH may be down, but it's not necessarily out for 2002.

The Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships, a series of stakes tied together to reward the top horses by division in the region, is on hold pending resolution of racing schedules in Maryland and New Jersey, said Alan Foreman, who created MATCH in the late 1990s. Foreman, chief executive officer of the Maryland-based Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, is hopeful something can be worked out soon.

"You really can't plan anything in Maryland or New Jersey because of lost purse subsidies," Foreman said. "How do you plan a series under these constraints? I'm guardedly optimistic we'll be able to do something."

The Maryland and New Jersey tracks have figured prominently in the MATCH series. In Maryland, the spring stakes schedule at Pimlico could be decided by the state racing commission Feb. 27. In New Jersey, Monmouth Park has a stakes schedule ready to go, but its racing dates are in limbo as horsemen and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority battle over a schedule.

At the Maryland meeting, the commission, horsemen, and the Maryland Jockey Club are expected to discuss the status of this year's Pimlico Special, a grade I event horsemen have suggested should be scrapped for a year in light of economic conditions.

Ideally, Foreman said four states--Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia--would participate in MATCH this year. There's an outside shot Charles Town Races in West Virginia could rejoin, he said.

This year's series, if it goes, will be different in that graded stakes won't be included, and the focus instead shifted on stakes in the $40,000 to $75,000 range.

"We want to try to stimulate more competition in the region and avoid a situation like last year," Foreman said. "We had some of the top sprinters in the country in the Mid-Atlantic in and out of MATCH races skewing the fields."

The consensus in the region, Foreman said, is that MATCH is a plus. If for some reason the series isn't held in 2002, it could return next year, he said.

"If all the stars align, we'll do it this year," he said.