By Tom LaMarra
One week after taking the lead in the hunt for the 2018 MATCH Series overall championship, Sycamore Racing V’s Jessica Krupnick held off challenges by three horses in three different divisions to make it official.
Trained by Tres Abbott at Fair Hill Training Center, Jessica Krupnick on Sept. 15 finished second in the Roamin Rachel Stakes, the last of five races in the Filly and Mare Sprint–Dirt Division, at Parx Racing and led the series with 34 points. Three MATCH Series races, two with horses eligible to win the title or tie at the top, were scheduled for the same day at Laurel Park but were moved to Sept. 22 because of the potential impact of Hurricane Florence.
A victory by Hillside Equestrian Meadows’ Laki in the grade III Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash, the final series race of the year, would have given him the overall MATCH title by one point, but he finished second to Switzerland in the race and wrapped up a full five-race series campaign with 32 points.
“Laki ran a great race and just kept plugging,” Abbott said. “It has been a fun summer racing in the MATCH Series. Once you get into it, you plan around it, and it worked out well for us. It’s a good program for Mid-Atlantic horses and some of the smaller trainers in the region.”
Jessica Krupnick, a 5-year-old mare by Uncle Mo out of the Henny Hughes mare Wear Red, finished fourth, beaten only three-quarters of a length, in the grade III Whimsical Stakes on the Tapeta surface at Woodbine in April before joining the MATCH Series, and in August finished third behind Hotshot Anna, who went on to win the grade II Presque Isle Masters Stakes, in the Satin and Lace Stakes on Tapeta at Presque Isle Downs & Casino.
The long round-trip to Erie, Pa., paid off in two ways for Sycamore Racing. It sealed the top spot in the Filly and Mare Sprint–Dirt Division for Jessica Krupnick, who competed in four of five series races, and also helped spur interest from a Canadian group looking for broodmares.
“We had a deal that after she raced (in the MATCH Series) we would sell her as a broodmare,” Abbott said. “So it was great to win the series with her but it was also bittersweet. She was consistent through the entire series. She’ll probably race one more time in Canada–the new owners want her to get black-type there, and then become a broodmare. Our goal is to race but also sell, and the MATCH Series offers an opportunity to showcase Mid-Atlantic horses.”
Sycamore Racing is operated by Tres Abbott’s father, Francis, in southeastern Pennsylvania. For the overall championship, the partnership will receive $50,000 as owner and the trainer will get $25,000. For winning the division, the payouts are $20,000 for the owner and $15,000 for the trainer for a grand total of $110,000 in bonus money put up by participating horsemen’s groups in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Laki, a 5-year-old Maryland-bred gelding by Cuba, took the overall series lead in August with a victory–after the disqualification of Lewisfield–in the Polynesian Stakes at Laurel. Lewisfield was in the running for the 3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Dirt Division title but finished fifth in the De Francis Dash, so Laki was the winner.
“Normally it’s not his thing to be near the inside,” trainer Damon Dilodovico said of Laki’s trip in the De Francis, “but (jockey) Horacio (Karamanos) encouraged him to get over his fear of that. He came out of the race very well, and he may get a little time off. Getting a payday like this means a lot to us, and if he’s good next year, we hope to participate in the series again.”
Though Laki didn’t win the De Francis, Dilovodico’s son, Nicholas, who is active in the family’s Laurel-based racing operation, ended up in the winner’s circle with Switzerland, who was stabled at the Dilodovico barn that week in the absence of trainer Steve Asmussen. The humor wasn’t lost on his father.
“When I saw that, I had a pretty good belly laugh,” said Dilodovico, who also works for International Sound at Laurel.
De Francis winner Switzerland, owned by Woodford Racing, won the grade III Maryland Sprint at Pimlico Race Course to kick off the MATCH Series in May but didn’t compete in the series again until the last leg. He was the only horse to win two races in the division but he didn’t qualify for bonus money, which requires a minimum of three starts.
Pimlico-based Mary Eppler won the 3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Turf Division as trainer and owner with Oak Bluffs, and the 3-Year-Olds and Up Long–Dirt Division with Page McKenney as trainer. Eppler, whose two horses started in eight MATCH Series races, will collect $50,000 for her efforts.
Page McKenney, the Pennsylvania-bred standout, was retired before his fourth division start. Eight-year-old Oak Bluffs raced in all five of his division races, and the bonus points he earned in the final race put him over the top. He held on by one point over Dubini, who finished second in the Sept. 22 Laurel Dash but needed to win to defeat Oak Bluffs by points.
“We were trying to figure out where we stood,” said Parx-based Kate Demasi, who trains Dubini for Pewter Stable. “That’s really exciting. I thought the series was great, and I’m glad it was brought back. We know the races in the series and have a good idea of the competition each time, which really helps.”
The MATCH Series this year offered 25 races valued at a total of $2.9 million at seven tracks: Laurel and Pimlico in Maryland; Parx, Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course and Presque Isle in Pennsylvania; Delaware Park; and Monmouth Park in New Jersey. Participating horsemen’s groups–Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association affiliates in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania; and the Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association–anted up bonus money, of which almost $400,000 will be paid.
Overall MATCH Series champion for 2018
Jessica Krupnick (34 points)
Owner: Sycamore Racing V ($50,000)
Trainer: Tres Abbott ($25,000)
Filly and Mare Sprint–Dirt Division
First place: Jessica Krupnick (34 points)
Owner: Sycamore Racing V ($20,000)
Trainer: Tres Abbott ($15,000)
Second place: Liz’s Cable Girl (18 points)
Owner: Lisbeth Dodd ($15,000)
Trainer: Pat McBurney ($10,000)
3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Dirt Division
First place: Laki (32 points)
Owner: Hillside Equestrian Meadows ($20,000)
Trainer: Damon Dilodovico ($15,000)
Second place: Lewisfield (26 points)
Owner: Linda Zang ($15,000)
Trainer: Jeff Runco ($10,000)
Third place: It’s the Journey (7 points)
Owner: Larry Johnson ($10,000)
Trainer: Mike Trombetta ($5,000)
3-Year-Olds and Up Long–Dirt Division
First place: Page McKenney (22 points)
Owner: Adam Staple and Jalin Stable ($20,000)
Trainer: Mary Eppler ($15,000)
3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Turf Division
First place: Oak Bluffs (25 points)
Owner: Mary Eppler Racing Stable ($20,000)
Trainer: Mary Eppler $15,000)
Second place: Dubini (24 points)
Owner: Pewter Stable ($15,000)
Trainer: Kate Demasi ($10,000)
Third place: Pool Winner (19 points)
Owner: Colts Neck Stables ($10,000)
Trainer: Alan Goldberg ($5,000)
Filly and Mare Sprint–Turf Division
First place: Smiling Causeway (13 points)
Owner: Audley Farm Stable ($20,000)
Trainer: Arnaud Delacour ($15,000)
Second place: Daylight Ahead (3 points)
Owner: Winners Circle Partners VIII ($15,000)
Trainer: Hugh McMahon ($10,000)
This year’s MATCH Series, the first since 2001, for the first time offered state-bred breeder bonuses courtesy of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, Thoroughbred Breeders Association of New Jersey, Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association and the Delaware Certified Thoroughbred Program. The following breeders will each receive $5,000 because their horses earned the most points overall in the male or female category.
Laki (Tom Michaels and Lorna Baker)
Daylight Ahead (Winners Circle Partners VIII)
Oak Bluffs (Patricia Generazio)
Liz’s Cable Girl (Colonial Farms)
Page McKenney (Dr. James Bryant and Linda Davis)
Daylight Ahead (Winners Circle Partners VIII)