By Tom LaMarra

Mary Eppler Racing Stable’s Oak Bluffs became the first horse to qualify for MATCH Series bonus money by virtue of his start in the grade III, $200,000 Parx Dash at Parx Racing July 7.

Horses must have three starts in the same division to qualify for the bonuses, which are paid to the top points-earner in each division as well as the horse with the overall highest point total. MATCH is predicated on encouraging participation in series races through financial incentives above the purse money.

For each division, owners of the top three points-earners will receive $20,000, $15,000 and $10,000, respectively, while trainers will get $15,000, $10,000 and $5,000, respectively. Prize money for the overall leader–in addition to bonus money earned in a division or divisions–is $50,000 to the owner and $25,000 to the trainer.

Oak Bluffs, an 8-year-old New Jersey-bred gelding trained by Eppler, has 16 points in the 3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Turf Division based on a third in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint at Pimlico Race Course, a win in the Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course and a sixth in the Parx Dash. Oak Bluffs remains the division leader despite the fact he twice raced on “off” turf courses not to his liking.

Horses that race in a fourth MATCH Series event pick up 5 points regardless of finish in addition to the usual points. If a horse starts in all five division events, it would earn another 7 bonus points.

As for others in the 3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Turf Division, two horses need only one more start to qualify for bonus money. They are Pewter Stable’s Dubini (9 points), fifth in the Parx Dash and second in the Governor’s Cup for trainer Kathleen Demasi, and Colts Neck Stables’ Pool Winner (12 points), second in the Parx Dash and third in the Governor’s Cup for Alan Goldberg.

Remaining races in the division: $75,000 Wolf Hill Stakes at Monmouth Park July 29 and $100,000 Laurel Dash Stakes at Laurel Park Sept. 15.

Here is a look at the other four divisions:

3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Dirt Division

Linda Zang’s Maryland-bred 4-year-old gelding Lewisfield leads the way with 12 points based on a third in the grade III Maryland Sprint Stakes at Pimlico and a second in the Mr. Prospector Stakes at Monmouth. The only other horse in the division with two starts is Hillside Equestrian Meadows’ Laki, another Maryland-bred with 6 points thus far for trainer Damon Dilodovico.

Laki is entered in the $75,000 Hockessin Stakes, the third of five races in the division, at Delaware Park July 14. Lewisfield took a pass on the third leg to run in the grade II Belmont Sprint Championship at Belmont Park and came away with a solid fourth-place finish.

Remaining races in the division: $75,000 Hockessin Stakes at Delaware Park July 7, $100,000 Polynesian Stakes at Laurel Aug. 12 and $250,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Sept. 15.

Filly and Mare Sprint–Turf Division

Audley Farm Stable’s Smiling Causeway was an impressive winner of the $100,000 Turf Amazon Stakes at Parx July 7 and moved to the top of the division. She now has 12 points, two of which were earned with a fifth-place finish in the off-the-turf The Very One Stakes at Pimlico.

The 4-year-old filly trained by Arnaud Delacour now has four wins and two seconds in six starts on the grass and needs one more MATCH Series start to qualify for bonus money.

Stoneway Farm’s Pretty Perfection, trained by Kelly Breen, also started in those two races and has collected 10 points. Brian Chenvert and Eddie Kenneally’s Girls Know Best, who won The Very One for trainer Eddie Kenneally, and G. Watts Humphrey Jr.’s Morticia, who captured the Penn Ladies Dash at Penn National for George “Rusty” Arnold, haven’t competed in the other two division races run so far.

Remaining races in the division: $75,000 Incredible Revenge Stakes at Monmouth Aug. 11 and $100,000 Sensible Lady Turf Dash at Laurel Sept. 15.

Filly and Mare Sprint–Dirt Division

Sycamore Racing V’s Jessica Krupnick missed the first division leg but then finished second in the Regret Stakes, won by Chalon, at Monmouth and followed up with a narrow come-from-behind victory in the $75,000 Dashing Beauty Stakes at Delaware Park July 7. The 5-year-old mare now leads her division with 17 points, which ties her with Page McKenney in the overall points standings.

Jessica Krupnick, trained by Francis “Tres” Abbott III, needs one more start to qualify for bonus money. The same goes for John Cocce, Lisbeth Dodd, Peter Donnelly and Gerard Melley’s Liz’s Cable Girl (8 points), who was third in the Regret and fourth in the Dashing Beauty for Pat McBurney; Iris Smith, Lady Sheila Stable and trainer Linda Rice’s Startwithsilver (8 points), second in the Skipat Stakes at Pimlico and sixth in the Regret; and Mr. Amore Stable’s Day by Day (4 points), who was fourth in the Regret and sixth in the Dashing Beauty for Breen.

Remaining races in the division: $100,000 Satin and Lace Stakes on the Tapeta surface at Presque Isle Downs & Casino Aug. 20 and the $100,000 Roamin Rachel Stakes at Parx Sept. 15.

3-Year-Olds and Up Long–Dirt Division

Adam Staple and Jalin Stable’s Page McKenney, the 8-year-old Pennsylvania-bred gelding trained by Eppler, is the only horse with two division starts heading into the third leg: a win in the grade III, $100.000 Salvator Mile Stakes and a second in the grade III, $100,000 Philip H. Iselin Stakes, both at Monmouth.

Page McKenney has 17 points and is tied with Jessica Krupnick overall. The other horse with a win in the division is owner/trainer David Jacobson’s Harlan Punch, who won the Iselin and has 10 points.

Remaining races in the division: grade III, $150,000 Monmouth Cup at Monmouth July 29; $100,000 Sal DeBunda PTHA President’s Cup at Parx Aug. 25; and the final race of MATCH Series 2018, the $200,000 Presque Isle Mile on the Tapeta surface at Presque Isle Sept. 16.