02/20/2018 11:16AM

Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships revived as 25-race bonus series


After a 16-year absence, the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships will return this year and offer a 25-race series that will run from mid-May to mid-September.

The championships are the result of a partnership between the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, its affiliates in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, seven racetracks, and the Pennsylvania HBPA.

The MATCH series was held from 1997 to 2001 before being discontinued due to “industry politics and changes in racing in the region,” according to Alan Foreman, CEO of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.

“At that point in time, Delaware had slots, Monmouth was falling on hard times, and Pennsylvania pulled out of the THA,” he said.

The Mid-Atlantic Championships will consist of five races in each of five different divisions. The races will offer $2.9 million in purses and $450,000 in bonuses, which will be paid out to the top-performing owners and trainers.

According to Foreman, the racetracks will pay the administrative expenses and other associated costs of the series and the horsemen are putting up the bonus money.

The five divisions are 3-year-olds and up going long on dirt; 3-year-olds and up sprinting on both dirt and turf; and fillies and mares sprinting on both dirt and turf.

:: View The 2018 MATCH series schedule

Monmouth Park will host seven of the 25 races. Laurel Park, Pimlico, and Parx Racing will have four races each. Delaware Park, Penn National, and Presque Isle Downs will each have two races.

All of the races are stakes. Purses range from $75,000 to $250,000. Six of the races are Grade 3’s.

The tracks have changed the traditional dates of some of their races to fit into the framework of the series. Penn National created the $100,000 Penn Ladies Dash and placed it on the undercard of Penn Mile night.

“We wanted to use the most competitive divisions we could, but we also needed to use divisions that the tracks could coordinate on their schedules without interfering with their big days,” Foreman said.

Horses will earn points for participation and finish position. The owners of the three top point-earners in each division will receive bonuses of $20,000, $15,000, and $10,000.

The trainers of the top three runners in each division will receive bonuses of $15,000, $10,000, and $5,000.

The owner who accumulates the most points in the entire series will earn a $50,000 bonus. The trainer who accumulates the most points will receive $25,000.

There are no nomination fees to compete in the series. Horses based at any track in the country can participate, but a horse must start in at least three legs of a specific division to be eligible for bonus awards.

Horses will earn 10 points for a win, 7 points for second, 5 points for third, 3 points for fourth, 2 points for fifth, and 1 point for finishing sixth through last.

Horses who start in all five legs of a division’s races will earn an additional 7 points. Horses who start in four of a division’s races will earn 5 points.

According to Foreman, the purpose of the series is to get the Mid-Atlantic tracks working together to coordinate their schedules. The hope is that the competition will help increase field size in MATCH stakes and draw increased fan attention.

“The goal is to get the marketing and racing sides of the industry working together by creating a new event in the region,” Foreman said. “I think there will be national interest regarding this concept. It will put the spotlight on owners and trainers as the series progresses.”

The MATCH series will begin Preakness weekend at Pimlico. On Black-Eyed Susan Day, the day before the Preakness, the filly and mare dirt-sprint division will begin with the $100,000 Skipat Stakes and the male turf-sprint division will open with the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint.

On Preakness Day, the male dirt-sprint division will open with the Grade 3, $150,000 Maryland Sprint and the filly and mare turf-sprint division will get under way with the $100,000 The Very One Stakes.

Championship weekend, when the final legs of each division will be held, is Sept. 15-16. Those races will be held at Laurel, Parx, and Presque Isle.

A multi-track pick five, with revenue sharing among the tracks, is in the planning stages for championship weekend, according to Foreman.

The 3-year-old and up long-on-dirt division has three Grade 3 stakes at Monmouth – the $100,000 Salvator Mile, $100,000 Philip H. Iselin, and $150,000 Monmouth Cup.

The 3-year-old and up dirt-sprint division includes the Maryland Sprint and the Grade 3, $250,000 De Francis Dash at Laurel.

The 3-year-old and up turf-sprint division includes the Grade 3, $200,000 Parx Dash.

More information is available at Matchseries.com.