By Tom LaMarra
Trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Ricardo Santana teamed up for the second time in two days in a MATCH Series race when Switzerland, owned by Woodford Racing, powered to a 3 1/2-length victory in the grade III, $150,000 Maryland Sprint Stakes May 19 at Pimlico Race Course.
The Maryland Sprint is the first of five stakes in the 3-Year-Old and Up Sprint–Dirt Division. The $75,000 Mr. Prospector Stakes at Monmouth Park June 17 is next in line.
Switzerland, a 4-year-old Speightstown colt, followed in the steps of Vertical Oak, who won the May 18 Skipat Stakes at Pimlico for Asmussen, Santana, and owners J. Kirk and Judy Robison. The Skipat is the first leg of the five-race Filly and Mare Sprint–Dirt Division of the MATCH Series.
Switzerland sat just behind Red Dragon Tattoo, who led through the first three-eighths of a mile on a track rated sloppy. He took over before the half-mile mark and pulled away to win impressively in 1:09.43. Long Haul Bay, who was just behind Switzerland for most of the race, finished second, followed by Lewisfield, who was steadied early but rallied in into the land and held third.
Switzerland paid $7.80 to win as the second choice behind Long Haul Bay.
“David Ingordo picked him out,” Joe Minor, a partner in Woodford Racing, said of Switzerland. “He has been high on him since he picked him out at (auction).”
Switzerland had been trained by Chad Brown through is maiden-breaker in his eight start in February. He was transferred to Asmussen and won two allowance races at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas.
“He came into the barn a fast horse,” Asmussen said. “The key to winning this race was him getting a :22 4/5 first quarter. I was surprised he was able to do that. He has been progressing and training ideally. With a win like this in a race like this, we’ll have to regroup and see what’s out there for older sprint horses.”
When asked about the MATCH Series, Asmussen said: “We do have horses that seem to fit that, and we expect to use it.”
Switzerland, who now has four wins, two seconds and three thirds in 11 starts, earned 10 points for the MATCH Series win. New York-based Long Haul Bay collected 7 points, followed by Maryland-bred Lewisfield with 5. It was rounded out by Irish Colonel (3), Heartwood (2), and Laki, Fellowship, Sonny Inspired and Red Dragon Tattoo each with 1 point. There were no scratches from the Maryland Sprint despite the sloppy track.
Irish Colonel, trained by Laurel Park-based Cathal Lynch, is owned by Wire To Wire Stable and Sal DeBunda’s Dun Roamin Farm. DeBunda, President of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said he hopes to Irish Colonel continues in the MATCH Series.
“That’s what we’re here for,” he said.