Posted: Dec. 29, 2021

By Tom LaMarra

Hillwood Stable’s Cordmaker had sealed the overall title in the 2021 Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships (MATCH Series) earlier on the Dec. 26 card at Laurel Park, but he ended the series emphatically with a strong victory in the $100,000 Robert T. Manfuso Stakes in the final race of the series.

Ridden by Victor Carrasco for trainer Rodney Jenkins, favored Cordmaker was rated inside for most of the 1 1/16-mile Manfuso. He was guided outside entering the stretch and reeled in the leaders–Workin On a Dream and Shackqueenking, who finished second and third, respectively–to capture his third stakes win in this year’s MATCH Series. Cordmaker, a 6-year-old Curlin gelding bred in Maryland by the late Robert Manfuso and Katy Voss, who operates a stable at Laurel, is the only horse to have had competed in all six races in his division (3-Year-Olds and Up Long–Dirt) this year.

“It’s all so special,” said Ellen Charles, who owns Hillwood Stable, a prominent Maryland racing and breeding operation. “Bob (Manfuso) was always my friend. I think Cordmaker is my best horse, an amazing horse who is a great character in the barn. He knows he’s special, and he has given us wonderful, wonderful wins. It’s just great to be a part of this.”

It was the 12th victory in 34 starts for graded stakes-placed Cordmaker, who is approaching $800,000 in earnings. His MATCH Series scores came in the Manfuso, the Richard Small Stakes at Laurel, and the Victory Gallop Stakes at Colonial Downs. He also won the Harrison Johnson Memorial at Laurel, where his is stabled, earlier in 2021.

“Cordmaker is very special,” said Carrasco, who has ridden Cordmaker in all of his starts this year and some before that. “We had a good trip right off the speed, and once we turned for home and he got some daylight, he was gone. It’s awesome. He’s a good horse and I think it’s even better when you have a home-track horse winning the series. I’m just happy for Mrs. Charles, Mr. Jenkins, assistant trainer Eveline (Kjelstrup) and the whole crew in the barn.”

Cordmaker ended the MATCH Series with 49 points in his division, the most of any horse in the 2021 series. Mary Eppler Racing Stable and Ram Racing Stable’s McElmore Avenue was second with 18 points in the division, followed by Trin-Brook Stables’ Forewarned in third with 6 points.

Willa On the Move Stakes (Filly and Mare Sprint–Dirt division)

Bush Racing Stable & Liberty House Racing’s Kaylasaurus, claimed for $25,000 at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in her previous start, went from last to first to win the $100,000, six-furlong Willa On the Move Stakes. It was the 2021 MATCH Series debut for the 5-year-old Munnings mare.

Ridden by Horacio Karamanos for trainer Tim Kreiser, Pennsylvania-bred Kaylasaurus won for the seventh time in 19 starts and passed the $200,000 mark in earnings. Eric Rizer’s Princess Kokachin, who had previously won five races in a row, finished second, with Dontletsweetfoolya third.

“She always makes a big move down the stretch,” the Penn National-based Kreiser said. “Horacio saw the early pace and saw (Hello Beautiful) struggling.”

Hello Beautiful, owned by Madaket Stables, Albert Frassetto, Mark Parkinson, K-Mac Stables and Magic Stables and trained by Brittany Russell, finished fifth but took the division title on the strength of two wins and a second in series competition. Hello Beautiful, with four MATCH Series starts this year, finished with 34 points (second to Cordmaker), while the retired Never Enough Time (22 points) and Paisley Singing (12 points) finished second and third, respectively, in the division.

Dave’s Friend Stakes (3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Dirt division)

Hillside Equestrian Meadows’ Laki was entered in the $100,000 six-furlong Dave’s Friend and scratched the morning of the race. But the 8-year-old Maryland-bred gelding by Cuba had enough points to capture his third consecutive title in the MATCH Series division. Laki, trained by Damon Dilodovico, has only missed two MATCH events–the Dave’s Friend and a stakes at Delaware Park–in the three years since the series returned to the Mid-Atlantic calendar.

“He’s a warrior, that’s for sure,” Dilodovico said. “He’s a special guy. After a horse like Immortal Eyes, who we had, it’s not often you get a very good, quality animal. He spiked a temperature this morning; we’ve had a few bugs the last seven to 10 days. But to be able to know you have a shot to get to the wire first every time you go to post–that’s Laki.”

Laki, who is 11-for-38 with multiple stakes victories, has earned $833,162. He finished the 2021 MATCH Series with 21 points in his division, followed by Mucho with 20 and Whereshetoldmetogo with 10.

Pocket 3’s Racing Threes Over Deuces, trained by Gary Capuano and ridden by Victor Rosales, rallied wide in the lane and got the advantage at the wire in a scramble in the Dave’s Friend. The 6-year-old Flat Out gelding, first, second or third in 28 of 40 starts, cleared the $500,000 mark in earnings.

“He’s always fighting,” said Jon Madden of Pocket 3’s Racing. “In his last couple races the jockey sent him, but with how the track was playing today, he held him back early. It was time to turn the tables once on Whereshetoldmetogo.”

Kentucky-based Mucho, owned by WSS Racing and 4 G Racing and trained by John Ortiz, competed in three MATCH Series events, two in Maryland and one in Virginia. Ortiz said he looks forward to future MATCH appearances.

“We were very happy to be a part of the series and hope to be back again in 2022 with two new shooters,” he said.

Carousel Stakes (Filly and Mare Long–Dirt division)

BB Horses’ Miss Leslie and James Wolf’s Artful Splatter entered the 1 1/8-mile Carousel tied at 13 points each. Miss Leslie, trained by Claudio Gonzalez, won the race, but Artful Splatter, trained by Kieron Magee, won the division with a second-place finish in her fourth series start.

Miss Leslie, a 3-year-old Paynter filly, won her third race in a row, all under jockey Angel Cruz, with a strong rally from the back of the pack. She was one of two 3-year-olds in a field of eight.

“She’s a good filly,” Cruz said. “She’s nice to ride. In the morning she’s kind of laid-back; I have to work hard with her. I felt really comfortable with her today. Just about every horse was coming from off the pace.”

Artful Splatter, under Carol Cedeno, sat just off the early leader before taking the lead on the far turn. She maintained the lead until the final sixteenth of a mile but held for second, which gave her the division victory. Artful Splatter, a 5-year-old Maryland-bred mare by Bandbox, made four series starts to three for Miss Leslie.

“I’m thrilled,” Magee said of winning the MATCH Series division. “I brought her here last week (from Pimlico Race Course) to work on this track. She broke well and took herself into the race. The filly that beat us obviously is very nice, but Artful Splatter has been a really good mare for a $16,000 claim.”

Artful Splatter finished with 25 points in the division, followed by Miss Leslie with 23 and Lookin Dynamic with 9 points.

MATCH Series division bonus money is awarded to the owner and trainer of the top horses based on points as follows: $20,000/$10,000 for first, $15,000/$7,500 for second, and $7,500/$3,000 for third. In addition, the owner and trainer of the overall points-earner regardless of division will receive $20,000 and $10,000, respectively. A horse must start at least three times in one division to qualify for bonus money.

In addition, bonuses will be distributed to the breeder of the top overall point-earning Maryland-bred horse and Maryland-sired horse in the series as follows–$3,000 for Maryland-bred and $3,000 for Maryland-sired.