MATCH Series Kicks Off

MATCH Series Kicks Off

by Bernard Kenny

The MATCH Series, the US Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship for 2019, is off and running with Laurel Park premiering the 20-race series at their Spring Stakes Spectacular, the opening day of Laurel turf season.

The Graham Motion trained Secret Message won the meeting’s principal MATCH race the Dahlia Stakes of 1 mile in the 3YO & Up Long Turf Division, with a winning ride by top jockey Trevor McCarthy.

A 4yo Kentucky bred filly by the Japanese duel Gr1 winner Hat Trick, Secret Message raced mid-field for the majority of the Dahlia, one off the fence. She then skirted wide on entering the home stretch to wear down the race favourite La Moneda, to score by a ‘nose’ on the line.

“I’m a huge fan of the series,” said Graham Motion, who is based at Fair Hill Training Centre. “I remember when Bursting Forth won her turf division. I think the series is a great idea, partially because it keeps races from being scheduled on top of each other. It’s also a great incentive for trainers.”

Of-course Graham Motion knows success, as he trained the 2011 Champion 3YO colt Animal Kingdom to win the 137th Kentucky Derby and later the Dubai World Cup. In shuttling to Arrowfield Stud in Australia, he has sired the recent Australian Derby winner Angel of Truth.

Jockey Horacio Karamanos was over joyed with Laki winning the Frank Whiteley Jr Stakes 6f, the 3YO & Up Dirt Sprint. “He went really fast today and he was moving nicely at the eighth-pole. I had the opportunity to go outside of Lewisfield when he gave me a nice kick, and he responded well.”

“Today’s a much better day,” trainer Damon Dilodovico said of his 2018 Division winner Laki. “Horacio had a few ideas, which we tried, and he picked it up going into this race. Even though he’s a seasoned horse, somethings you change things up and it’s positive. He was dynamite today.”

A Maryland bred 6yo gelding sired by the stakes winner Cuba, a son of Not For Love, Laki was an easy $8.20 winner for owners Hillside Equine Meadows. In scoring 10 points in this 3YO & Up Dirt Sprint, Laki now heads for the Chocolatetown Sprint Stakes at Penn National.

The New York trained Dirty, ridden by Jorge Vargas Jr, came well off the pace to take out the King T Leatherbury Stakes of 5½f, in a new race record time 1-00.65sec in the 3YO & Up Turf Sprint Division.

The record was no surprise to Jorge Vargas Jr. “I worked him last week and he did well. They were going pretty quick up front and he just took off in the stretch, and if you’ve got the horse you can win.”

The Primonetta Stakes of 6f, the 3YO & Upwards Fillies and Mares Dirt Sprint, went to the John Servis trained Ms Locust Point, ridden by Jorge Vargas Jr, who scored an all the way victory in holding off the fast finishing Cairenn, jockey Trevor McCarthy, on the line.

“I thought there would be some pressure in the race because she was the filly to beat,” said Jorge Vargas Jr, who captured his second MATCH Series event on the afternoon. “I didn’t want to take her out of her game, and she just kept going. I was pretty confident.”

“Programs like this create opportunities for owners like us, and we need those opportunities,” said owner Jim Reichenberg. “The MATCH Series is perfect for horses that are a little better than the claiming level, and you can tell by the horses that have shipped in for these races.”

The MATCH debuted in 1997, running for five years. On its renewal last year, the Series now to four divisions with the 3YO & Up Sprint Dirt, 3YO & Up Fillies and Mares Sprint Dirt, 3YO & Up Sprint Turf and 3YO & Up Fillies and Mares Long Turf each having five $100,000 races.

The Series moves to the Penn National on June 1, then on July 13 at Delaware Park, September 2 at Parx Racing with the Series concluding at Monmouth Park on September 28.

Total prize money is $2.2 million, with additional bonus prize money. The first, second and third placed points earning owners in each division receiving $20,000, $15,000, and $10,000, with the top three trainers earning $15,000, $10,000 and $5,000.

The overall Series top owner will win $50,000, and the top trainer $25,000. The breeder of the top points earning colt-gelding and filly-mare from each division receiving $5,000.

Points in each series stakes are awarded as 10 for first, seven for second and graduating to one for sixth through to last. In addition, $40,000 in bonus money is available to the top Maryland-bred, New Jersey-bred, Pennsylvania-bred and Delaware Certified runners in the series.