Posted: May 7, 2021

By Tom LaMarra

The four stakes at Pimlico Race Course that kick off the 2021 Mid-Atlantic Championships Series (MATCH) attracted 130 nominations, among them many local runners that regularly compete in Maryland throughout the year.

This year’s series begins May 15-16, and each of the six divisional legs—there are four divisions, all on dirt this year—will be held in Maryland with the exception of one stop at Colonial Downs in Virginia in late August. The MATCH Series concludes Dec. 26 at Laurel Park.

Note that entries for the Friday, May 15 card will be taken Sunday, May 9. Entries for May 16 will be taken Monday, May 10.

The May 15 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes program will include two MATCH events: the $250,000, Grade III Pimlico Special (3-Year-Olds and Up—Long Dirt division) and the $150,000, Grade III Allaire DuPont Stakes (Filly and Mare Long—Dirt division). On May 15, Preakness Stakes day, the $100,000 Runhappy Skipat Stakes (Filly and Mare Sprint—Dirt division) and $150,000, Grade III Maryland Sprint Stakes (3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint—Dirt division) are scheduled.

The Pimlico Special, at 1 3/16 miles, attracted 39 nominees including last year’s winner, Harper’s First Ride, who at the time was trained by Maryland-based Claudio Gonzalez but was sold before his start in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational in January of this year. Cordmaker, who is based at Laurel with trainer Rodney Jenkins, was third in the 2020 Pimlico Special and is coming off a victory in the Harrison Johnson Memorial Stakes in March at Laurel. Runnymoore Racing’s Alwaysmining, a multiple stakes winner in Maryland based at Fair Hill Training Center, finished second in an open allowance race at Parx Racing for trainer A. Lands Trites in late March.

Pimlico Special nominations

Among the locals nominated to the Allaire DuPont at 1 1/8 miles is BB Horses’ Landing Zone, who is trained by Gonzalez. The 4-year-old Morning Line mare won four in a row last summer and fall, progressed to the stakes level and came away with a second and third at Laurel. Sonata Stable’s Lucky Stride, trained by Maryland-based Mike Trombetta, won the Nellie Morse Stakes at Laurel in February and last November finished second in the Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes at Laurel.

Allaire DuPont nominations

Multiple stakes winner Anna’s Bandit, who has been away since July 2020, is nominated to the six-furlong Runhappy Skipat. Owned by No Guts No Glory Farm and trained by John Robb, the 7-year-old Great Notion mare has won 17 of 36 starts and was third in the Grade III Barbara Fritchie Stakes at Laurel in the winter of 2020. Five Hellions Farm’s Dontletsweetfoolya, who won her last five races, two of them stakes at Laurel, in 2020 for trainer Lacey Gaudet, has been away since her seventh-place finish in the Barbara Fritchie earlier this year. Parx-based Chub Wagon, owned by Daniel Lopez and George Chestnut and trainer Guadalupe Preciado, is five-for-five in her career and last out at Parx won the Unique Bella Stakes for Pennsylvania-breds by 7 1/2 lengths; her winning margins total more than 31 lengths.

The Filly and Mare Sprint—Dirt division has produced the overall MATCH Series champion since the series returned in 2018: Jessica Krupnick in 2018 and Bronx Beauty in 2019. MATCH wasn’t held last year because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Runhappy Skipat nominations

Hillside Equestrian Meadows’ Laki, trained by Damon Dilodovico, was the MATCH Series champion in the 3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint—Dirt division in 2018 and 2019 and is among those nominated to the six-furlong Maryland Sprint. The 8-year-old Cuba gelding won the Grade III Frank J. De Francis Memorial Stakes at Pimlico in October 2020 and in April captured the Frank Whiteley Stakes at Laurel. Maryland-based Whereshetoldmetogo, trained by Brittany Russell for Madaket Stables, Ten Strike Racing, Michael Kisber and Black Cloud Racing, won three consecutive stakes at Laurel from November 2020 through March 13 of this year. The 6-year-old El Padrino gelding encountered trouble and was eased in the Frank Whiteley but had previously defeated Laki at Laurel.

Maryland Sprint nominations

The MATCH Series, the only one of its kind in racing, will feature 24 stakes—20 of them in Maryland and four at Colonial Downs—valued at $2.75 million. Bonus money totals $282,000 for 2021.

Owners and trainers will compete for $63,000 in divisional bonuses and the overall MATCH Series champion will net $30,000 in bonuses for its owner and trainer. In addition, the Maryland Horse Breeders Association will pay a $3,000 bonus to the breeder of the top points-earning Maryland-bred and $3,000 for the top points-earning Maryland-sired horse. If the top points-earner is both Maryland-bred and -sired, the breeder would get $6,000.

(Photo of Laki winning 2021 Frank Whiteley Stakes by Jim McCue)