MATCH Series 2000: It's All Max's Pal

In a performance considered the strongest to date in the four years of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships series, Raymond Dweck's Max's Pal won five of the six stakes in the division for 3-year-old sprinters and easily took home the overall championship.

Aside from the purse money Max's Pal accumulated with victories in the Hirsch Jacobs Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, Legal Light Stakes at Delaware Park, Montpeiler Stakes at Laurel Park, Rumson Stakes at Monmouth Park, and most recently the Bergen County at Meadowlands Oct. 7, the colt earned a $100,000 bonus for Dweck, and a $50,000 bonus for trainer Ben Perkins Jr.

In the other event in his division, Max's Pal lost by a nose to Disco Rico in the Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup (gr. II) at Monmouth.

"This may have been the best of the four MATCH series we've done," said Alan Foreman, chief executive officer of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and the founder of MATCH. "The only difference this year was the overall championship didn't come down to the last race."

Other divisional winners were Grundlefoot, owned by Paul Fowler and trained by Gary Capuano (3-year-old long division); Just Call Me Carl, owned by Steven Newby and trained by Dale Capuano (3-year-olds and up sprint division); Superduper Miss, owned by Debby Oxley and trained by Paul Rizzo (3-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, sprint division); and Camella, owned by Dorothy Matz and trained by Michael Matz (3-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, turf division).

The MATCH series, designed to generate interest in Mid-Atlantic racing and healthy competition between horses in the region, also awarded $400,000 in divisional bonuses. The participating racetracks were Charles Town Races, Colonial Downs, Delaware Park, Laurel Park, Meadowlands, Monmouth Park, and Pimlico Race Course.

Foreman said MATCH used "target advertising" this year, and focused on its Web site with some success.

"We operate with a marketing budget of about $200,000 a year -- tell me how much you can do with that kind of money today?" Foreman said. "MATCH also is somewhat hampered by the politics of the Mid-Atlantic region. When you talk about marketing, you need long-term commitments. We go from year to year not knowing who is participating."

Foreman couldn't get the New York Racing Association to commit to the series in 2000 even though the horsemen's association at NYRA tracks is affliated with the THA, but he said he'll try again for 2001.

"It's a very competitive series," Foreman said. "Our fields were strong at a time when there were small and weak fields throughout the country."