By Tom LaMarra

The 2019 MATCH Series begins April 20 at Laurel Park and the response at the entry box for four stakes, one in each division, was strong.

In all, 44 horses were entered with another four listed as main-track-only in the two turf races. The MATCH stakes join three other stakes on an 11-race Saturday program that marks the first weekend of grass racing at the Laurel spring meet.

The four $100,000 MATCH events on the first of five series programs this year are the Frank Whiteley Jr. Stakes (3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Dirt Division), the King T. Leatherbury Stakes (3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Turf Division), the Primonetta Stakes (Filly and Mare Sprint–Dirt Division) and the Dahlia Stakes (Filly and Mare Long–Turf Division).

Laurel has carded the MATCH stakes consecutively (races five through eight) and they will make up the first of two Pick 4 wagers on the card. The Dahlia (race eight) will begin the second all-stakes Pick 4 of the day.

The Frank J. Whiteley, at six furlongs, attracted eight horses including the top three finishers in the March 16 Not For Love Stakes at Laurel: Linda Zang’s Lewisfield, Super C Racing’s Rockinn On Bye and Hillside Equestrian Meadows’ Laki. Last year, Laki and Lewisfield finished one-two in the 3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Dirt Division, while R. Larry Johnson’s It’s the Journey, also entered in the Whiteley, finished third; all three are Maryland-breds.

The 5 1/2-furlong King T. Leatherbury, which drew a field of 14 and one horse listed as main-track-only, marks the 2019 debut of Pewter Stable’s Dubini, who finished second in the 3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Turf Division in 2018 behind Mary Eppler Racing Stable’s Oak Bluffs. Also entered is DARRS Inc.’s Proforma, a grade III winner who finished third in his only start in the MATCH Series last year.

The Primonetta, at six furlongs, lured 10 fillies and mares including Cash is King and Jim Reichenberg’s Ms Locust Point, who finished third in one MATCH Series stakes in 2018 and has four wins and one second in six Laurel starts. Also entered is Lady Sheila Stable and Iris Smith Stable’s Startwithsilver, who raced in two series stakes in 2019 and then got a break before returning to the races in New York this winter.

The one-mile Dahlia drew 12 plus three on the main-track-only list. Patricia Moseley’s La Moneda, who hasn’t raced since last December, has six wins in 10 starts on the turf and wrapped up 2018 with a second-place finish in the grade III My Charmer Stakes in Florida. Sookdeen Pasram’s Timeless Curls, never worse than third in 10 starts, would make her first start on grass in the Dahlia.

The MATCH Series offers up to $375,000 in bonuses for the top three owners and trainers in each division, as well as owner and trainer bonuses for the overall champion by points among all divisions. Points in each series stakes are awarded as follows: 10 for first, 7 for second, 5 for third, 3 for fourth, 2 for fifth and 1 for sixth through last. In addition, $40,000 in bonus money is available to the top Maryland-bred, New Jersey-bred, Pennsylvania-bred and Delaware Certified runners in the series.