By Tom LaMarra
Pewter Stable’s Dubini fell four points shy of winning a 2018 MATCH Series division title, and now he’s scheduled to return action April 20 at Laurel Park in the first leg of the series. Several other prominent horses from last year’s series are entered in other series races.
Dubini, a 6-year-old Gio Ponti gelding trained by Parx Racing-based Kate Demasi, is part of a full field entered for the $100,000 King T. Leatherbury Stakes at 5 1/2-furlongs on the turf. It’s the first of five stakes in this year’s 3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Turf Division.
Last year Dubini competed in four of five divisional races in the series and one of his strongest efforts came in the final one at Laurel. He opened a three-length lead in the stretch only to be collared late by Class and Cash on a course rated yielding.
Waldorf Racing Stables’ Fielder, a 5-year-old Sidney’s Candy gelding, finished a nose behind Dubini in the MATCH finale at Laurel and is entered in the Leatherbury. Fielder, a Pennsylvania-bred trained by Marya Montoya, also is based at Parx. Both will be making their first start of 2019.
“He has been training well but it has been a tough winter–wet, wet, wet,” Demasi said of Dubini, who has earned almost $200,000 in 14 starts. “He’ll probably need a race, but I’m excited to be competing in the MATCH Series again this year. I’m also excited to be able to run him this early in the year.
“I’m sure the course will be a little on the softer side (given the weather forecast for the previous day), but with a turf horse, that’s how it goes.”
The 3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Turf Division has a different look this year in that two of the five stakes are at 7 1/2 furlongs. It was part of compromise to keep the division–last year it had the largest average field size–on the schedule this year and avoid a conflict with a graded stakes.
Dubini isn’t expected to compete in the third and fourth legs, Demasi said, but if he makes three legs he will be eligible for bonus money under MATCH Series rules.
“Be that as it may, I understand why it was done,” Demasi said of the decision. “I do hope everybody gets on board next year (to keep the division races at one turn).”
Fielder, whose breeder, HnR Northcraft Horseracing, is eligible for a bonus should the gelding be the top male Pennsylvania-bred by points overall in the series, came to life in turf sprints in 2018. Along with his third-place finish in the Laurel Dash, he was second in an allowance race on the turf in his other Laurel outing.
The connections of the Pimlico Race Course-based Blame mare So Innocent are looking forward to getting the 5-year-old back on the grass in the one-mile Dahlia Stakes, which will kick off the Filly and Mare Long–Turf Division. So Innocent is four-for-1o on the turf but also has done well on dirt.
“I love the MATCH Series,” said trainer Charles “Snake” Frock, “but I wish we had drawn closer to the inside. We’re 15, but with three main-track-only horses, we’ll be in post 12. It’s not the best post in the world but we’ve been waiting a month and half to run her and she has been training well.”
Frock, known for his flair for comedy, said he and his family have been preparing for the $100,000 stakes.
“The other day I claimed a horse named Midnight Mass for $10,000, so now I have to go to church on Sunday,” he said. “And the owners went to (the store) and bought new outfits especially for this race, so we have to run her now.”
So Innocent, a winner of more than $160,000, is owned by P & H Stables and C & B Stables, which is a Frock family production. Frock said he hopes to race the mare in as many MATCH Series legs as possible.
The six-furlong Frank J. Whiteley Stakes (3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Dirt Division) brings together 2018 MATCH Series warriors Laki and Lewisfield, who finished one-two, respectively, in the five-race division. Last time out in the Not For Love Stakes at Laurel, Lewisfield was a dominant winner, with Whiteley entrant Rockinn On Bye second and Laki third.
Laki, a Maryland-bred owned by Hillside Equestrian Meadows, has been pointed to this year’s series since last fall by Laurel-based trainer Damon Dilodovico. Laki began his 2019 season with a third-place finish in the grade III General George Stakes at Laurel.
“This is a good group of racehorses, and these races are tough,” Dilodovico said of the local colony of sprinters. “He has been doing well since his last race (March 16).”
Linda Zang’s Lewisfield, also a Maryland-bred, is trained by Jeff Runco and based at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. Runco will have a busy Saturday; along with Lewisfield at Laurel he has multiple horses entered in stakes on the Charles Town Classic program in West Virginia.
“The 5-year-old year can be one of their best years. I’m hoping that will be the case with him,” Runco said of Lewisfield. “He had a good 4-year-old year. He has grown and he has matured. I think his 5-year-old year can be very good.”
After Laurel, the MATCH Series moves to Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course June 1, Delaware Park July 13, Parx Sept. 2 and Monmouth Park Sept. 28.
(Photo of Dubini, outside, by Jim McCue/MJC)