MATCH Series set for April return
by Frank Vespe
After a splashy 2018 return, the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships (MATCH) Series is set — with significant changes — for 2019.
“We were thrilled by the successful return of the MATCH Series in 2018,” Alan Foreman, creator of the MATCH Series and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said in a release. “Despite the most challenging weather conditions in Mid-Atlantic history, the series exceeded all of our expectations and we are proud and excited to bring it back. We learned a lot in our return last year and have tried to make changes that are the product of numerous conversations with series participants, horsemen, track management and fans.”
But it won’t look quite the same as it did a year ago.
Gone are the fillies and mares turf sprint division and the three-year-olds and up going long on the main track division. Also gone: graded stakes and any races at either Presque Isle Downs, which hosted two races in 2018, or Pimlico, which hosted four over Preakness weekend.
In their stead will be a more compact and easy-to-understand series focused on four divisions: three-year-olds and up sprinting on the turf and also on the dirt, fillies and mares three and up sprinting on the dirt, and fillies and mares going long on the turf.
And, in a major change from last year’s schedule, which took place on 14 separate racing days, this year’s MATCH Series is slated to occur on just five. On each of those five days, each of the four divisions will be contested.
“We think the 2019 series will be a credit to Mid-Atlantic racing and generate tremendous interest and enthusiasm throughout the racing industry,” Foreman said. “MATCH is an enormous undertaking and the remarkable collaborative effort of all of the MATCH partners is unprecedented in the industry.”
The series will kick off April 20 at Laurel Park, a day on which four of the seven scheduled stakes will be MATCH Series events. It will move then to Penn National Race Course June 1, which is also the day of the Grade 2 Penn Mile, although the Mile itself is not part of the Series. Delaware Park will host the MATCH Series on July 13, which is also Delaware Handicap day. On September 2, the Series will move to Parx Racing, and it will conclude with its Championship Day September 28 at Monmouth Park.
Each Series race will carry a $100,000 purse — also a change from 2018, during which race purses ranged from $75,000 to $200,000. Bonuses for owners and trainers will total $375,000 with $75,000 in divisional bonuses, $50,000 to the overall series winning owner and $25,000 to the winning trainer. In addition, there will be breeders’ bonuses totaling $40,000.
Horses competing in MATCH Series divisions earn points per race based on participation and order of finish, and the leading points earners in each of the series divisions, as well as the overall owner and trainer points leaders, win lucrative bonuses. In addition, the breeders of each competing colt/gelding and fillies/mares earn points with the breeders earning bonuses for horses that win their division.
The 2018 MATCH Series came down to the final day, which was contested at Laurel Park. Laki’s second-place finish in that day’s Grade 3 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash enabled him to secure the three-year-olds and up dirt sprint division — but it also left him two points behind Jessica Krupnick for the overall title. Jessica Krupnick, trained by Tres Abbott, finished with 34 total points to the 32 earned by Laki, trained by Damon Dilodovico.
The MATCH Series is a collaboration of racetracks, horsemen and breeder organizations in the Mid-Atlantic region, which comprises the largest daily concentration of Thoroughbred racing in the United States. They each contribute to the marketing, purses and bonus pool.
The participating organizations are the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and its affiliates in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania; Maryland Jockey Club (Laurel Park); Delaware Park; Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment (Parx); Penn National Gaming Inc. (Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course); Darby Development (Monmouth Park); Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association; Maryland Horse Breeders Association; Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association; Thoroughbred Breeders Association of New Jersey; and Delaware Certified Thoroughbred Program.