By Tom LaMarra

The impact of bonus money on the outcome of the MATCH Series cumulative and divisional standings was quite apparent in 2001, the last year the series was held.

The Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships returns this year with 25 stakes in five divisions from mid-May through mid-September. And owner and trainer bonuses provided by participating horsemen’s groups again are an important part of the effort to drive participation in series races.

In 2001 two high-profile horses each went three-for-three in their respective divisions, but in the end they didn’t have the points to qualify for bonuses. There were six races in most divisions that year, so participation played a major factor.

The filly Xtra Heat, owned by Harry Deitchman, Kenneth Taylor and trainer John Salzman Sr., won all three of her MATCH Series stakes in the Filly and Mare Sprint Division for a total of 30 points. But it was Debby Oxley’s Superduper Miss, trained by Paul Rizzo, who bagged the most points (37) and $40,000 in bonus money given her placings in five of the six division events.

Xtra Heat, however, made up for it. She won more than $1 million that year, including $200,000 for a close second-place finish in the grade I Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

In the 3-Year-Old Sprint Division in 2001, DAARS Inc.’s City Zip won all three of his MATCH Series starts to earn 30 points, but it was Sea of Green, owned and trained by Janice Gerace, who won the division title with 54 points. Sea of Green competed in all six division events.

City Zip, trained by Linda Rice, won the grade II Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga Race Course during his MATCH Series run and banked $401,920 in 2001, his final year of racing. He went on to become a successful sire, particularly late in his stallion career.

Gerace also owned and trained Loaded Gun, who captured the 3-Year-Old and Up Sprint Division that year. Gerace ended up with two division winners and the honor of overall champion owner and trainer for a total of $190,000 in bonus earnings.

Other prominent local horses that competed in the MATCH Series the last year it was held were Delaware Township, Disco Rico, Max’s Pal, and Say Florida Sandy.

This year’s series, which kicks off May 18-19 with four races at Pimlico Race Course, offers $450,000 in owner and trainer bonuses as well as an additional $40,000 for breeders and certifiers. Purses for the 25 series stakes total $2.9 million.

Points are earned in each race as follows: 10 for first, 7 for second, 5 for third, 3 for fourth, 2 for fifth, and 1 for sixth through last. A horse must participate in at least three races in its division to be eligible for bonus points, which are earned regardless of the finish position: Four starts is worth 5 points, and five starts is worth 7 points.

The core of racetracks and horsemen’s groups that funded MATCH from 1997-2001 remains in place for this year. Some tracks are gone, and many of the stakes have different names or are no longer run. But the objectives of the series haven’t changed.

A look at the schedules and divisions for the series in its first five is available at the following links:

MATCH Series 2001

MATCH Series 2000

MATCH Series 1999

MATCH Series 1998

MATCH Series 1997