Posted: April 23, 2022

By Tom LaMarra

Kaylasaurus, who has shown a fondness for the Laurel Park dirt surface, rallied from last to capture the $100,000 Primonetta Stakes, one of three Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships (MATCH Series) events on the April 23 program at the Maryland racetrack.

In the other MATCH action, Deciding Vote won the first stakes of her career in the $100,000 Dahlia, while Chez Pierre remained undefeated in five starts with a smart victory in the $100,000 Henry Clark Stakes. The three stakes wrapped up the first leg of the 2022 MATCH Series, which now shifts to Parx Racing and Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in June.

Kaylasaurus, owned by Bush Racing Stable, Liberty House Racing, BlackRidge Stables and George Saufley, won the Willa On the Move Stakes at Laurel in her 2021 MATCH Series debut in late December off the claim for $25,000 in her previous outing. In February, she was fourth, beaten less than two lengths after a troubled trip, in the Grade III Barbara Fritchie Stakes at Laurel.

The 6-year-old Pennsylvania-bred mare by Munnings drew the outside post in the six-horse Primonetta (Filly and Mare Sprint—Dirt division) field and as usual dropped to the back of the field under Horacio Karamanos as favored Princess Kokachin led through moderate fractions in the six-furlong event. The field began to bunch up on the far turn and Kaylasaurus, on the far outside, continued to slowly make up ground. She finally pulled clear late to win by three-quarters of a length over Prodigy Doll, who rallied from fourth to take second. Two-time Maryland-bred champion Street Lute finished third in her 2021 debut.

The time for the distance was 1:10.74 on a track rated fast. The winner paid in $5.20 as the second choice.

“She has always been a nice horse,” said trainer Tim Kreiser, who is stabled at Penn National. “She definitely has filled out and I think she’s a lot stronger right now. I was worried at the three-eighths pole because I thought we were a little too close (to the lead), but I guess Horacio knows better than I do. She always tracks the field, and today was no different.”

“It’s a team effort, and she makes us look good—especially when you claim the horse,” said David Bushey, who manages Bush Racing. “We were joking in the dining room with the (connections) of Princess Kokachin saying, ‘This is Round Three.’ It’s just a lot of fun, and we want to see horses like this compete.”

Kaylasaurus won for the eighth time in 23 starts and pushed her earnings over the $300,000 mark. Kreiser said he likes this year’s MATCH Series schedule, particularly with a race at Penn National and another one at Laurel, and will plan the rest of the mare’s 2022 campaign around it.

Deciding Vote, owned and bred by William Pape and trained by Edward Graham at Fair Hill Training Center, hadn’t raced since a winning effort on the turf at Laurel in October 2021. But she picked up where she left off with a solid off-the-pace score in the one-mile Dahlia under jockey Angel Suarez, who returned to the Mid-Atlantic region after riding during the winter at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in Louisiana.

Deciding Vote, a 5-year-old Mr. Speaker mare, was eighth for a half-mile in the 11-horse Dahlia before switching to the outside and rallying past In a Hurry to win by a half-length. Coconut Cake overcame trouble to take third. The time of the race was 1:37.43 on a course rated firm, and the winner paid $12 as the third choice.

“The trip set up perfectly for her with all the speed,” Graham said. “This is her first stakes win. The owners always told me to take my time with her, so there never was any pressure. They let me place the horse where I think the horse needs to be. I was a little worried if the speed would come back (to her) but it worked out perfectly.”

Deciding Vote, who won for the fourth time, has raced on the turf at multiple Mid-Atlantic tracks, and figures to be a factor in the Filly and Mare Long—Turf division this year.

Lael Stables, which has won multiple MATCH Series stakes with horses that have gone on to win graded stakes, may have another one in Chez Pierre, who won the Henry Clark (3-Year-Olds and Up Long—Turf division) by 5 1/2 lengths on the firm Laurel course in 1:34.83, a little more than a second off the course record. Ridden by Daniel Centeno, the winner paid $3.80 as the favorite. Penn National-based Mandate was second, with Maryland-bred champion Field Pass third.

Purchased at auction as a 2-year-old, the 4-year-old French-bred gelding by Mehmas won his first three races, all at six furlongs on the grass, in France. Current trainer Arnaud Delacour said Chez Pierre had a setback, got time off, and was shipped to the U.S. He made his stateside debut in early March at Tampa Bay Downs, stretched out to one mile and won an allowance race by a neck in 1:34.12 on a course rated firm.

“Mr. and Mrs. Jackson bought him and planned to start him in Europe, where he did very well,” Delacour said. “When he went two turns (in last start at Tampa with Centeno aboard), I was surprised. He learned to relax very well. He has been breezing very well, and we are very high on him.”

The MATCH Series will take a break in May—though many participants will compete in stakes at Pimlico Race Course Preakness weekend—and return June 14 at Parx (two turf divisions) and June 17 at Penn National (two dirt divisions).