By Tom LaMarra
Many of the top contenders in this year’s Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships Series (MATCH) will face a host of talented newcomers as Colonial Downs offers four $150,000 stakes representing all series divisions Tuesday, Aug. 16. The MATCH stakes, which attracted a total of 46 entries, are part of a strong nine-race program with total purses of $930,000.
Colonial Downs returned to the MATCH Series last year when all divisions were on the dirt because the series stretched through late December. This year’s stakes are the 1 1/8-mile Buckland (3-Year-Olds and Up Long–Turf division), 1 1/16-mile Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Old Nelson (Filly and Mare Long–Turf division), seven-furlong Seeking the Pearl (Filly and Mare Sprint–Dirt division) and six-furlong Chesapeake (3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Dirt division).
Post time for the first race is 1:45 p.m. The MATCH Series stakes are races 4, 6, 7 and 8.
Mark Grier’s Eons, who is two-for-two in MATCH competition this year and leads his division with 20 points, had one win in 2021 and it came in the Buckland in his only start at Colonial. Trained by Arnaud Delacour with Trevor McCarthy named to ride, the 6-year-old Giant’s Causeway horse in his last start finished second in the Prince George’s County Stakes at Laurel Park but was placed first after English Tavern–also entered in the Buckland–was disqualified for interference and placed second.
Eons will become eligible for MATCH bonus money with a start in the Buckland, which attracted a field of 10, before the fifth and final leg at Parx Racing Oct. 3.
Runnymoore Racing’s Beacon Hill, third in the MATCH standings with 8 points after two starts, finished sixth in the Prince George’s County but one race prior finished only a nose behind Eons in the Bensalem Stakes at Parx Racing. The 5-year-old Blame gelding, to be ridden by Adam Beschizza for trainer Michael Matz, will be eligible for bonus money with a start in the Buckland.
HPG Thoroughbreds’ King Vega, trained by Graham Motion and to be ridden by Angel Suarez, finished second in an allowance prep at Colonial in his last start and previously won an allowance test at Delaware Park. The 4-year-old Lope de Vega gelding competed in England last year and will make his first MATCH Series start.
Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Old Nelson
Walter Pape’s Deciding Vote has built her 2022 campaign around the MATCH Series for trainer Edward Graham, and the 5-year-old Mr. Speaker mare will seek to pad her lead in the Old Nelson, which lured a field of 13. Deciding Vote, to be ridden by Mychel Sanchez, won the Dahlia Stakes at Laurel to kick off the series, was a close fourth in the Neshaminy Stakes at Parx and rallied for second in the Big Dreyfus Stakes at Laurel in her last start.
Deciding Vote has 20 points and will pick up 5 bonus points with a start in the Old Nelson. In her only start at Colonial, Deciding Vote missed winning an allowance race on the grass by a nose last year.
Stuart Janney III’s In a Hurry, second with 12 points after two series starts, has finished a neck and a half-length behind Deciding Vote. Forest Boyce has the call for trainer Shug McGaughey.
Parx-based Tic Tic Tic Boom, fourth in the standings with 9 points, also will earn 5 bonus points with a start in the Old Nelson. Jonathan Ocasio rides the 4-year-old Hit It a Bomb filly for owner Timory Ridall and trainer Alan Bedard, who has kept her in the hunt with an eye on the fifth and final leg of the division on her home turf course.
Seeking the Pearl
Stud Los Leones’ Cheetara, winner of the 2021 Seeking the Pearl, is one of nine fillies and mares entered in a race that appears loaded with early speed. The 5-year-old Daddy Long Legs mare made her 2022 MATCH debut in the Alma North Stakes at Laurel in her last start and finished third behind Chub Wagon and Kaylasaurus after leading for three-eighths of a mile.
Vincent Cheminaud has the call on the Keeneland-based mare for trainer Ignacio Correas IV. Chub Wagon, undefeated in three MATCH Series starts over the last two years, was nominated but not entered. Division and overall series leader Kaylasaurus (22 points) is poised to make her fourth start in the series this year and will earn 5 bonus points with a start in the Seeking the Pearl.
Kaylasaurus, a 6-year-old Pennsylvania-bred mare owned by Bush Racing Stable, Liberty House Racing, BlackRidge Stables and George Saufley, is a consistent off-the-pace type with one win, three seconds and a third in six 2022 outings. Regular rider Horacio Karamanos, in a battle for the local riding title once again, will ride for trainer Tim Kreiser.
CJI Phoenix Group and No Guts No Glory Farm’s Fille d’Esprit, second in the division with 12 points, will become eligible for bonus money in the Seeking the Pearl. Trained by John Robb with Xavier Perez named to ride, the 6-year-old Maryland-bred mare by Great Notion defeated Kaylasaurus in the Susquehanna Valley Stakes at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course but didn’t fire her best shot in the Alma North after acting up in the starting gate.
Favoritism could fall to Columbine Stable’s Caribbean Caper, who is undefeated in five starts, all of which came in 2021. Stabled at Saratoga Race Course with trainer Al Stall Jr., the 4-year-old Speightstown filly won her races, including the Grade III Dogwood Stakes at Churchill Downs, by a combined 24 lengths under Colby Hernandez, who has the mount.
Just Might and Mucho, the one-two finishers in the 2021 Chesapeake, are among a full field of 14 entered in what appears on paper to be a wide-open affair.
Just Might, a 6-year-old Justin Phillip gelding owned by trainer Michell Lovell and Griffon Farms, finished an even fourth in a turf sprint stakes at Colonial Downs in his last start and returns to the local dirt. Hernandez has the call as Just Might will seek to reach the $1 million mark in career earnings.
Mucho, a 5-year-old Blame horse trained by John Ortiz for WSS Racing and 4 G Racing, will be ridden by Reylu Gutierrez, who was aboard last year at Colonial Downs. Mucho, a seven-time winner, finished second in the MATCH division last year behind the retired Laki.
Neither Just Might or Mucho will be eligible for bonus money this year with only one series leg remaining after Colonial Downs. Beren and Threes Over Deuces, first and second in the standings, are both entered in the Chesapeake.
St. Omer’s Farm and Christopher Feifarek’s Beren, trained by Butch Reid, was a strong winner of the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel last time out after a second-place finish in the Chocolatetown Stakes at Penn National. The 4-year-old Pennsylvania-bred by Weigelia will be eligible for bonus money with his next series start; Beren is also nominated for Pennsylvania-bred stakes scheduled for Aug. 22 at Parx, where he is based.
Pocket 3’s Racing’s Threes Over Deuces has amassed 10 points with a third, fourth and fifth in the first three legs of the MATCH Series and would collect 5 bonus points with a start in the Chesapeake. No rider was named at time of entry for the 7-year-old Flat Out gelding trained by Gary Capuano.