Posted: Aug. 18, 2021

By Tom LaMarra

Strong fields have been assembled for the four Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships Series (MATCH) Aug. 23 at Colonial Downs, which returns to the series for the first time since 2001.

The Virginia track will host four $100,000 stakes in each MATCH Series division for 2021: the Chesapeake (3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Dirt), Seeking the Pearl (Filly and Mare Sprint–Dirt), Victory Gallop (3-Year-Olds and Up Long–Dirt) and Love Sign (Filly and Mare Long–Dirt). First post time for the pari-mutuel program is 1:45 p.m., with a pair of non-wagering steeplechase events beginning at 12:15 p.m.

Chesapeake Stakes

The six-furlong Chesapeake attracted the top two horses in the division standings by points: WSS Racing and 4 G Racing’s Mucho (13 points) and Hillside Equestrian Meadows’ Laki (12 points).

Mucho, who has been stabled at Colonial Downs with trainer John Ortiz, won the Challedon Stakes at Pimlico Race Course July 31 to earn his first series victory. Reylu Gutierrez, who was aboard at Pimlico, is named again in the Chesapeake, which will be the 5-year-old Blame horse’s third series start.

Laki, trained by Damon Dilodovico, will make his first Colonial Downs start in 36 career outings. Laki, an 8-year-old Maryland-bred gelding by Cuba, was second in the Lite the Fuse Stakes at Pimlico and has started in the first three stakes in his division. He will pick up 5 MATCH Series bonus points in the Chesapeake for his fourth start in the series. Regular rider Horacio Karamanos is named.

Also entered is Whereshetoldmetogo, who finished third behind Mucho in the Challedon for owners Madaket Stables, Ten Strike Racing, Michael Kisber and BTR Racing (trainer Brittany Russell). The 6-year-old Maryland-bred by El Padrino has won 11 races and also makes his local debut. Sheldon Russell is named to ride.

Seeking the Pearl Stakes

With division leader Chub Wagon (20 points) having opted for a Pennsylvania-bred stakes at Parx Racing on the same day, and Hello Beautiful–second in the standings with 17 points–taking a pass, the seven-furlong Seeking the Pearl offers a chance for Larry Johnson’s Never Enough Time to make up ground.

Trained by Mike Trombetta, who also entered Three Diamonds Farm’s Kiss the Girl, Never Enough Time has 5 MATCH Series points after two starts in her division. The 5-year-old Maryland-bred by Munnings is the only entrant with a win at Colonial Downs–in her last start in her first outing locally. Julian Pimentel is named to ride again.

Multiple graded stakes winner Frank’s Rockette, owned by Frank Fletcher Racing Operations and trained by Bill Mott, also is entered and appears the probable favorite as the 4-year-old Into Mischief mare approaches the $900,000 mark in earnings on a record of eight wins in 15 starts.

Victory Gallop Stakes

Hillwood Stables’ Cordmaker, third in the division standings with 8 points after two MATCH Series starts, gets a chance to move up in the standings in the 1 1/16-mile Victory Gallop which, like the Love Sign, is raced around one turn.

Regular rider Victor Carrasco is named on Cordmaker, a 6-year-old Maryland-bred gelding trained by Rodney Jenkins. He has been first, second or third in 20 of 30 starts and has performed well at the one-turn-mile distance at Laurel Park.

Triple V Racing and trainer Ortiz claimed Singapore Flash for $40,000 from an allowance/optional claiming race on the turf at Colonial Downs last time out and entered him in the Victory Gallop. In his last race on the dirt, the 5-year-old Shanghai Bobby gelding cleared his first allowance condition at Fair Grounds Race Course in Louisiana. Gutierrez will ride.

Love Sign Stakes

Mark Grier’s Sosua, undefeated in three starts for Fair Hill Training Center-based trainer Arnaud Delacour, will attempt to remain¬† perfect in the 1 1/16-mile Love Sign. Hector Diaz Jr., aboard for all three of the 4-year-old Speightstown mare’s victories, will ride again.

ABL Stables, Domenic Bossone, Patrick Donnelly, Jacob Schnoor and W. Oberdorf’s Sweet Sami D, with 5 MATCH Series points after two of six division legs, also is entered. Trained by Pat McBurney, the 5-year-old First Samurai mare finished third in Caesar’s Wish Stakes at Pimlico and then won an allowance event at Delaware Park.

The MATCH Series, the only one of its kind in racing, began May 14 at Pimlico and will wrap up Dec. 26 at Laurel. The 2021 edition features 24 stakes valued at $2.75 million and $282,000 in bonus money.

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.

Colonial Downs, which was an original partner when the series debuted in 1997 and participated until it was discontinued in 2001 but returned in 2018, had signed onto the planned 2020 series, which was canceled because of COVID-19. When the regional MATCH partners determined that the full series would be delayed until 2022, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and Maryland Jockey Club decided to run a Maryland-based series, and the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and Colonial Downs offered to participate.

(Photo of Mucho by Jim McCue)