Posted: March 12, 2022

By Tom LaMarra

The Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships Series (MATCH), the only one of its kind in racing, returns for a ninth season with a $2.2 million stakes schedule that spans April 16 through Oct. 3 and more than $400,000 in bonus money for owners, trainers and breeders.

The series, a competition among horses in four divisions, is designed to identify the best horses, and their owners and trainers, in the Mid-Atlantic region. The series, which has had to adapt to the complications caused by the pandemic, will be contested this year at Laurel Park, Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, Colonial Downs and Parx. Parx will host this year’s Championship Day.

Turf racing also returns to the schedule this year. The four divisions are 3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Dirt; Filly and Mare Sprint–Dirt; 3-Year-Olds and Up Long–Turf; and Filly and Mare Long–Turf. There will be five stakes in each division for a total of 20.

“MATCH is very popular with the horsemen in the Mid-Atlantic and we are grateful for the horsemen’s organizations and tracks who continue to support and promote the series,” said Alan Foreman, creator of MATCH and Chairman of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.

“The stakes program at Parx in recent years has grown in monetary value, stature and interest, and we continue to look for opportunities to create event days for our on-track patrons and our growing simulcast audience,” said Joe Wilson, Chief Operating Officer of Parx Racing. “Hosting the MATCH Series Championship Day on a Monday afternoon this year fits in with those objectives.”

“We are very excited to participate this year and host Championship Day,” Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association President Sal DeBunda said.

Colonial, an original MATCH partner when the series launched in 1997, was set for a return in 2020. In 2021, the track and the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association stepped up to join with Maryland for an all-dirt series.

“Colonial Downs is honored to host four MATCH Series stakes worth a total of $600,000 for 2022,” said Jill Byrne, Vice President of Racing Operations for Colonial. “The value of these races was certainly recognized again last season with top multiple stakes winners such as Cordmaker and Just Might providing popular victories here in Virginia.”

The bonus money distribution for 2022 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 2021 champion was Hillwood Stable’s Cordmaker, who competed in all six legs of the series. The gelding won three MATCH stakes, collected 49 points and earned his connections $60,000 in bonus funds.

The Maryland Horse Breeders Association, Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association and Virginia Thoroughbred Association have each agreed to offer $5,000 bonuses to breeders based on the performances of horses in the series for a potential total of $30,000. Pennsylvania and Virginia will recognized the top male and female state-bred runners by overall points earned, while Maryland will award bonuses to the top Maryland-bred and Maryland-sired runners by overall points earned.

The 2022 participating organizations 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.

The MATCH Series originally debuted in 1997 and ran for five years. It returned with great success in 2018 and was held in 2019 and 2021. The innovative regional racing series–the only one of its kind in horse racing–combines rich stakes and bonuses for participating owners and trainers who compete over a five- to seven-month span. Horses competing in MATCH earn points based on participation and order of finish in each series race, and the leading point-earners in each of the series divisions, as well as the owner and trainer of the overall points leader, win lucrative bonuses.