Posted: April 16, 2022

By Tom LaMarra

In a field of well-seasoned sprinters, it was the lightly-raced Disco Pharoah who took the lead in the final eighth of a mile and pulled away to win the $100,000 Frank Y. Whiteley Stakes at Laurel Park April 16 to kick off the 2022 Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships (MATCH) Series.

The seven-furlong Whiteley was the first of five stakes in this year’s 3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint—Dirt division. MATCH will continue April 23 at Laurel with stakes in the other three divisions that make up this year’s schedule.

Trained at Belmont Park by Raymond Handal, Disco Pharoah, who was supplemented to the Whiteley, won a maiden special weight event at Aqueduct Racetrack by 19 1/2 lengths in his previous outing. The 4-year-old gelding by American Pharoah had raced only two other times in the fall of 2021.

Ridden by Jevian Toledo, Disco Pharoah raced just behind a duel between Borracho and War Tocsin before edging toward the lead nearing the top of the stretch. He quickly opened up by 3 1/2 lengths and finished 3 1/4 lengths in front at the finish in 1:23.64 on a track rated fast. Saddled by Lacey Gaudet for Handal, Disco Pharaoh paid $5.60 to win as the slight favorite in a seven-horse field.

Disco Pharoah was bred in Kentucky by Ralph Kinder and Erv Woolsey.

“I’d like to thank Raymond Handal and the owners for the opportunity,” said Toledo, who won three races (two of them stakes) on the Laurel card. “I really didn’t get much instructions on how to ride him. I placed him close because of the way he ran last time, and when I asked him, he just took off. I felt like I had a ton of horse.”

Ejetero LLC’s Mohaafeth, who was last early in the Whiteley, rallied widest of all on the turn and in the stretch to nose out Threes Over Deuces for second. Mohaafeth, a 4-year-old Tapit gelding, had eight starts coming into the Whiteley, including an entry-level allowance win at Laurel at the one-turn mile in his previous start. He broke his maiden at seven furlongs.

“I think he ran very well (given the jump in class),” said trainer Elvis Trujillo, who owns Mohaafeth. “I think he’s better with a little more distance, but we’ll try to keep him in the MATCH Series. We just need to make sure everything is good with him.”

The next race in the division is the $100,000 Chocolatetown Stakes at six furlongs on June 17 at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course.

After the first leg at Laurel, the division standings by points are as follows: Disco Pharoah (10), Mohaafeth (7), Threes Over Deuces (5), Youngest of Five (3), War Tocsin (2), Sir Alfred James (1) and Borracho (1).

The MATCH Series offers $2.2 million in purse money and more than $400,000 in bonus money. The distribution offers up to $92,500 per division and $30,000 for the overall champion by points. For each division, first place pays $30,000 to the owner and $15,000 to the trainer; for second, $20,000/$10,000; and for third, $10,000/$7,500. For the overall champion, the owner receives an additional $20,000 and the trainer $10,000.

The 2022 participating organizations in MATCH are the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, Pennsylvania THA, Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Parx Racing, Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, 1/ST Racing, Maryland THA, Laurel Park, Maryland Horse Breeders Association, Colonial Downs, Virginia HBPA and Virginia Thoroughbred Association.