05/06/2010 12:00AM

Miss Match, Taptam show strong company


Miss Match and Taptam, a pair of 5-year-old mares who were competitive last time out against two of the nation's hottest older females, will clash for the first time in Saturday's $50,000 Winter Melody Stakes at Delaware Park.

The 1 1/16-mile race drew a field of eight fillies and mares, including an uncoupled entry for trainer Cindy Jones.

Miss Match, a Group 1 winner in her native Argentina two seasons ago, most recently was fourth, beaten less than three lengths, in the Grade 3 Rampart at Gulfstream. The winner that day, Unrivaled Belle, came back to win last weekend's Grade 2 La Troienne at Churchill Downs with a 103 Beyer Speed Figure.

Taptam spent the winter and early spring at Oaklawn Park, where she was second, beaten 4 1/4 lengths, by the unbeaten Zenyatta in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom a month ago.

Of the two, Miss Matched has the advantage of having a race over the track last fall. Trainer Michael Matz is adding blinkers to her equipment for her first start in seven weeks. Matz is 6 for 19 with horses returning in 31 to 60 days and racing in blinkers for the first time, according to DRF's Formulator.

Taptam has been first or second in 3 of 4 starts this year, including a win in Oaklawn's Pippin Stakes at the same 1 1/16-mile distance as she will race Saturday.

Jones, who took over as head trainer when her husband, Larry, retired last fall, has two contenders with her uncoupled entry of Haven's Honey and Tammy's Victress, both of whom have shown an affinity for Delaware's main track.

Haven's Honey won her only previous start at Delaware by nearly 21 lengths, although that was almost exactly two years ago. Cindy Jones has said that Haven's Honey could be a candidate for the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap in July.

Although Tammy's Victress is 0 for 3 this year, she has won the last two starts she made at Delaware, including a 7 3/4-length score last September.

Trainer Tony Dutrow also has a horse for the course in Magicalcarpetride, who is 3 for 4 at Delaware. She returns to the main track after a failed experiment on turf at Gulfstream in March.

The Penn National-based Sweet Temptress steps up in class after winning three straight by a combined margin of nearly 24 lengths.

* Total handle on Delaware's opening-day card last Saturday was up 23 percent compared with last year, which can be partly attributed to the fact the track opened on Kentucky Derby Day for the first time. Handle on Delaware's 10 races was $1,272,392, compared with $1,031,085 on the opening-day card in 2009. Ontrack handle rose 5 percent from $283,619 in 2009 to $298,492.