The Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships Series (MATCH) returns to Colonial Downs in Virginia for the first time since 2001 with a slate of four $100,000 stakes — one in each of this year's four divisions — on Aug. 23 in a big day for Virginia gambling.
Colonial Downs was an original MATCH partner when the series was launched in 1997, having hosted four stakes in four of the five divisions that year. Track management and the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association had agreed to rejoin the series in 2020 — but MATCH was canceled because of COVID-19.
In all, an estimated 139 horses have been nominated in this year's MATCH. The four stakes are the Chesapeake (Three-Year-Olds and Up Sprint — Dirt division), Seeking the Pearl (Filly and Mare Sprint — Dirt division), Victory Gallop (Three-Year-Olds and Up Long — Dirt division) and Love Sign (Filly and Mare Long — Dirt division).
The Chesapeake and Seeking the Pearl are the fourth of six legs in their divisions, while the Victory Gallop and Love Sign are the third of six legs in their divisions.
The VA sports betting market launched in late January.
The state posted $235 million total handle in June.
WSS Racing and 4 G Racing’s Mucho and Hillside Equestrian Meadows’ Laki, the top two horses in the division by points, are among the nominees. Mucho (13 points), trained by John Ortiz, took the division lead with a strong win in the Challedon Stakes at Pimlico Race Course July 31. Laki (12 points), trained by Damon Dilodovico, finished a close fourth in the Challedon and is the only horse thus far to have started in all three races in his division.
Tamaroak Partners’ Bango has won three consecutive stakes in Kentucky for trainer Greg Foley and defeated Mucho by a nose in the Kellys Landing Stakes at Churchill Downs June 25.
Whereshetoldmetogo, owned by Madaket Stables, Ten Strike Racing, Michael Kisber and BTR Racing, finished a close third in the Challedon in his first series appearance for trainer Brittany Russell.
SEEKING THE PEARL STAKES
Hello Beautiful, second in the division standings with 17 points, would make her third MATCH Series start should she make the trip to Virginia. Owned by Madaket Stables, Albert Frassetto, Mark Parkinson, K-Mac Stable and Magic City Stables, Hello Beautiful won the Alma North Stakes at Pimlico July 31 and before that finished a neck behind division and overall series leader Chub Wagon (20 points) in the Shine Again Stakes at Pimlico. Chub Wagon is not nominated to the Seeking the Pearl.
Other nominees with two series starts are C and B Stables’ Paisley Singing (seven points), trained by Charles A. Frock; and Larry Johnson’s Never Enough Times (five points), trained by Mike Trombetta. Never Enough Time was a game winner in quick time for six furlongs in an allowance event July 26 in her first start at Colonial Downs.
VICTORY GALLOP STAKES
The one-two-three-four finishers in the July 31 Deputed Testamony Stakes at Pimlico — MCA Racing Stable’s Harpers First Ride; Morris Kernan Jr., Yo Berbs and Jagger Inc.’s Magic Michael; Hillwood Stables’ Cordmaker; and Burning Daylight Farms and Rebecca Galbraith’s Mischief Afoot — are among the nominees.
Twelve-time winner Harpers First Ride, trained by Claudio Gonzalez, has made two series starts and leads the division with 11 points, while Cordmaker, also with two starts, is third with eight points.
Grade III stakes winner Silver Dust, owned by Tom Durant and trained by Bret Calhoun, has been stabled at Colonial Downs since early July. Martin and Pam Wygod’s Modernist, a Bill Mott trainee who finished second in the Grade III Pimlico Special — first leg of the division — also is nominated.
LOVE SIGN STAKES
Mrs. Orb, owned by Ruggeri Stable, Richard Coburn, Script R Farm and trainer Mike Miceli, is tied at the top of her division with Spice Is Nice, each with 10 points.
Mrs. Orb captured the Caesar’s Wish Stakes, second leg of the division at Pimlico on July 4. She is joined on the Love Sign nominations list with Sweet Sami D (5 points), Artful Splatter (3 points) and Gracetown (1 point), who finished third, fourth and seventh, respectively, in the Caesar’s Wish.
Horses in the MATCH Series qualify for a share of more than $280,000 in bonus money for owners and trainers if they start at least three times.
Following the MATCH series, Colonial Downs will commemorate thoroughbred racing's 1973 Triple Crown Champion and America's superhorse Secretariat with his own bronze statue in Virginia, his birth state. Secretariat was born in Doswell, Va., in 1970. Three years later he blazed his way into Triple Crown history.
Also known as “Big Red,” Secretariat fans near and far can join Kate Tweedy, Leeanne Ladin, Jocelyn Russell and the Secretariat.com team for all the action taking place at the New Kent, Va., track on Aug. 30.
The event begins when gates open at 12:45 p.m at the track’s exclusive fourth floor clubhouse Sky Suites overlooking the historic Secretariat Turf Course.
LOA luncheon buffet and cash bar will be available throughout the majority of the day, which also includes a book-signing, silent auction, and an afternoon of live racing with first post at 1:45 p.m.