Preakness Weekend Marks MATCH Series Relaunch

Series will pay bonus money to owners, trainers, and breeders.

While the season's second classic will highlight the weekend's racing, the Preakness Stakes (G1)—as the Mid-Atlantic region's biggest race of the year—also provides a spotlight for the relaunch of the MATCH Series.

Through a cooperative effort of tracks, horsemen's groups, and breeders' groups in the Mid-Atlantic region, this year's MATCH (Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships) Series offers bonuses for owners, trainers, and breeders based on performance in 25 stakes races throughout the region from mid-May through mid-September.

There are five divisions—dirt long, dirt sprint, turf sprint, fillies and mares dirt sprint, and fillies and mares turf sprint—offering five races for 3-year-olds and older.

Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association chairman and CEO Alan Foreman, the driving force behind reviving the series that was first offered from 1997-2001, said the series will focus on divisions that might have been a bit overlooked. He noted divisions like 3-year-old male and 3-year-old fillies already are performing well. 

"We didn't take the obvious divisions that will guarantee large fields because when you look at those divisions, there's no growth potential there, whether it's handle or otherwise," Foreman said. "Also, the divisions that might have been some of the more obvious divisions might have been more difficult to coordinate."

That coordination includes the fact that any weekend a MATCH Series race is contested, no other track in the region will offer a race in that division. Foreman credited Mike Dempsey of the Monmouth Park racing office for emphasizing that point and helping to make it a reality.

"One of the things that we said we wanted to try to do here is sequence the races in the division with the understanding that the tracks would not run a competing race against a Series race," Foreman said. That goal would see racing directors go to work on a chalkboard, moving race dates a bit one way or the other until the 2018 MATCH Series schedule was in place.

"To their credit, the racing directors and the directors of the horsemen's groups were able to work together to design the series of races that we have," Foreman said, noting that nearly every track gave some concession to make the schedule work.

Total purse money of the 25 races is $2.9 million. Horsemen will compete for $450,000 in bonus money, all contributed by the participating horsemen's organizations. The first-, second-, and third-place points-earning owners in each division will earn $20,000, $15,000, or $10,000. The top three points-earning trainers in each division will earn $15,000, $10,000 or $5,000. The MATCH Series overall top points-earning owner will win $50,000, and the top points-earning trainer will earn $25,000.

New to the series this year: State breeder organizations are each contributing $10,000 in bonus money, and the breeder of the top points-earning male and female from each state program will receive $5,000. The breeder bonus is structured to keep that money in-state.

Four divisions will get cranked up this weekend on Black-Eyed Susan Day (May 18) and Preakness Day (May 19) at Pimlico Race Course. On Friday, eight female sprinters are entered in the Skipat Stakes, and the Jim McKay Turf Sprint has attracted an expected field of 10. On Saturday, the series continues with 14 entered in The Very One Stakes (fillies and mares turf sprint) and nine entered in the grade 3 Maryland Sprint Stakes (dirt sprint). 

That's an average of 10.25 entries for the MATCH Series' first four races. The long dirt division gets going May 26 at Monmouth Park with the Salvator Mile (G3).

Besides Pimlico and Monmouth, other participating tracks include Delaware Park, Laurel Park, Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, Parx Racing, and Presque Isle Downs. The series will culminate with championship weekend Sept. 15-16 at Laurel, Parx, and Presque Isle.

The individual purses of the races in the MATCH Series range from $75,000 to $200,000.

"We didn't want to load the series with big stakes races because that's a caliber of horse not everyone has," Foreman said.

Horsemen's groups will fund the owner and trainer bonuses, while the tracks involved will pay for marketing and promotion, Foreman said. The tracks are contributing an amount equal to 25% of what their corresponding horsemen's group contributed.

There is no special nomination fee required to participate in the series, which awards points for the top six placings for each race. A horse must participate in at least three races within a division to be eligible for bonuses, and horses receive five bonus points if they compete in all races in the series. 

"We will see how the series goes," Foreman said. "You obviously want large fields, you want increases in handle, you want an event that everybody thinks is good for racing and exciting and helps promote and market the sport, because there's nothing like this event in racing."

The series partners are the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and its affiliates in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania; the Pennsylvania Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association; the Maryland Jockey Club (Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park); Delaware Park; Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment (Parx); Penn National Gaming (Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course); Darby Development (Monmouth Park); Eldorado Resorts (Presque Isle Downs & Casino); Maryland Horse Breeders Association; Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association; Thoroughbred Breeders' Association of New Jersey; and Delaware Thoroughbred Certified Program.

Foreman noted that putting the MATCH Series together has been an extension of the cooperation the Mid-Atlantic region has enjoyed on issues like uniform medication policies in recent years.

Entries: Skipat S.

Pimlico Race Course, Friday, May 18, 2018, Race 5

  • STK
  • 6f
  • Dirt
  • $100,000
  • 3 yo's & up Fillies and Mares
  • 1:34 PM (local)
11Cairenn (FL)Steve D. Hamilton118Mark J. Reid4/1
22Toby Girl (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJevian Toledo118Anthony Farrior20/1
33Startwithsilver (NY)Irad Ortiz, Jr.122Linda Rice3/1
44Ms Locust Point (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJorge A. Vargas, Jr.124John C. Servis7/5
55Luckyallmylife (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateT. D. Houghton118Robert M. Gorham30/1
66Katalust (OH)UNKNOWN118Anthony T. Quartarolo20/1
77Everlasting Secret (FL)Horacio Karamanos118Damon R. Dilodovico20/1
88Vertical Oak (KY)Ricardo Santana, Jr.118Steven M. Asmussen9/2

Entries: Jim McKay Turf Sprint S.

Pimlico Race Course, Friday, May 18, 2018, Race 10

  • STK
  • 5f
  • Turf
  • $100,000
  • 3 yo's & up
  • 4:14 PM (local)
11Rocket Heat (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJorge A. Vargas, Jr.118Carlos F. Martin6/1
22Field of Courage (ON)Keeneland Sales GraduateJavier Castellano118Rudy R. Rodriguez12/1
33Imprimis (FL)Irad Ortiz, Jr.118Joseph F. Orseno3/1
44Oak Bluffs (NJ)Paco Lopez118Mary E. Eppler6/1
55Vici (KY)Julien R. Leparoux118Ben Colebrook10/1
66Unbridled Daddy (KY)Jose C. Ferrer118Gregory D. Sacco30/1
77Hogy (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJose L. Ortiz122Michael J. Maker2/1
88Pool Winner (KY)Jevian Toledo118Alan E. Goldberg15/1
99Triple Burner (NY)Ricardo Chiappe118Linda L. Albert20/1
1010Dubini (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateDaniel Centeno118Kathleen A. Demasi12/1

Entries: Maryland Sprint S. (G3)

Pimlico Race Course, Saturday, May 19, 2018, Race 10

  • Grade III
  • 6f
  • Dirt
  • $150,000
  • 3 yo's & up
  • 4:05 PM (local)
11Sonny Inspired (MD)Carlos Quinones118Phil Schoenthal20/1
22Heartwood (KY)Florent Geroux118James K. Chapman15/1
33Red Dragon Tattoo (KY)Irad Ortiz, Jr.118Juan Carlos Guerrero12/1
44Lewisfield (MD)Arnaldo Bocachica118Jeff C. Runco7/2
55Switzerland (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateRicardo Santana, Jr.118Steven M. Asmussen5/2
66Irish Colonel (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJorge A. Vargas, Jr.118Cathal A. Lynch10/1
77Laki (MD)Horacio Karamanos118Damon R. Dilodovico15/1
88Fellowship (FL)J. D. Acosta118Kenneth Decker12/1
99Long Haul Bay (NY)Manuel Franco118Chad C. Brown2/1

Entries: The Very One S.

Pimlico Race Course, Saturday, May 19, 2018, Race 11

  • STK
  • 5f
  • Turf
  • $100,000
  • 3 yo's & up Fillies and Mares
  • 4:42 PM (local)
11Chanteline (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateRicardo Santana, Jr.122Steven M. Asmussen6/1
22Victorias Fire (NY)Kevin Gomez118Michael T. Sabine30/1
33Pretty Perfection (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJose L. Ortiz118Kelly J. Breen10/1
44Anna's Bandit (WV)Xavier Perez118John J. Robb20/1
55Angel At War (KY)UNKNOWN118Michael E. Gorham30/1
66Jessica Krupnick (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateForest Boyce118Francis Abbott, III30/1
77Girls Know Best (KY)Javier Castellano122Eddie Kenneally3/1
88Boos (FR)Jevian Toledo118Alan E. Goldberg15/1
99Daylight Ahead (MD)Jomar Torres118Hugh I. McMahon20/1
1010Carolina Shag (WV)Sheldon Russell118Susan S. Cooney20/1
1111Smiling Causeway (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateDaniel Centeno118Arnaud Delacour7/2
1212Just Talkin (FL)Irad Ortiz, Jr.118Jason Servis9/2
1313Keep Your Distance (KY)Jorge A. Vargas, Jr.118Michael J. Trombetta20/1
1414Miss Gossip (IRE)Manuel Franco118Carlos F. Martin15/1