By Tom LaMarra

The first MATCH Series race ever held at Presque Isle Downs & Casino was productive from a wagering standpoint and encouraging in that the numbers were strong even though the race wasn’t part of a big-event program.

The $100,000 Satin and Lace Stakes (Filly and Mare Sprint–Dirt Division) on Aug. 20 generated total pari-mutuel handle of $252,151, an increase of 89% from $133,387 for the same race in 2017. The handle figures are for all in-race wagers as well as horizontal bets that began with the Satin and Lace, which had a field of 10 this year versus 11 last year.

The stakes was held on a Sunday in June last year for which total wagering on eight races was $374,858. This year, total handle for a Monday night card of nine races was $1.29 million; the same-night eight-race card in 2017 yielded $996,289 in total handle.

Generally, MATCH Series events held on major racing programs have produced the highest wagering gains. That was the case at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, which offered its two series races as part of the Penn Mile card; Delaware Park for its two series races; and Monmouth Park, where two of its seven series events were held on Haskell Day.

On July 29, the grade III Monmouth Cup, third leg of the 3-Year-Olds and Up Long–Dirt Division, registered total handle of $837,697, a gain of 149.8% from the same race on the same day last year. There were six horses this year versus four in 2017.

The Wolf Hill Stakes (3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Turf Division) was placed just before the Haskell Invitational. With a field of 11, handle recorded for the Wolf Hill totaled $1.35 million.

Last year, the Wolf Hill was run on opening day at Monmouth, moved to the dirt, scratched down to six horses and generated $142,316 in wagers. Using the race before the Haskell last year–the Matchmaker Stakes, for which handle was $1.08 million–as a comparison, handle was up 24% year over year.

Meanwhile, on Aug. 25, Parx Racing held the Salvatore DeBunda PTHA President’s Cup, fourth leg of the 3-Year-Olds and Up Long–Dirt Division. In-race handle and wagers on horizontal bets that started with the race totaled $89,482, up 12.7% from $79,394 for the same race in 2016, when it was held in September.

Field size was five horses this year and in 2016. The President’s Cup failed to fill in 2017 and wasn’t run.