5-month Mid-Atlantic series of stakes set $4M in purses available in races at eight tracks

February 05, 1997|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

BAL HARBOUR, Fla. -- Calling it innovative and unprecedented, racing officials yesterday announced a five-month, $4 million series of stakes races at mid-Atlantic tracks.

At this posh resort north of Miami Beach, where Eclipse Awards festivities and industry meetings were taking place, officials outlined the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships, or MATCH, which will begin April 19 at Pimlico Race Course and culminate Oct. 4 with championship finales in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

"The MATCH series is a landmark event for the racing industry," said Alan M. Foreman, a Baltimore lawyer and executive director of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Associations.

"It represents a unique partnership of horsemen and racetracks designed to enhance the quality of racing, provide additional financial rewards for our owners and trainers and market our sport as never before."

The series will consist of seven races in each of five divisions at Pimlico, Laurel Park, Delaware Park, Philadelphia Park, Monmouth Park, Penn National, The Meadowlands and Garden State Park. Horses will earn points in each race and, at the end of the series, the leading horses' owners and trainers will divide $500,000 in bonuses. Purses for the races will total $3.5 million.

The divisions will be 3-year-old sprint, 3-year-old long, 3-year-old-and-upward sprint, 3-year-old-and-upward long and 3-year-old-and-upward fillies and mares long on turf.

According to Foreman and Joseph A. De Francis, president and chief executive officer of the Maryland Jockey Club, the series marks the first time that racetracks and horsemen have joined to stage a regional competition. It grew out of a desire to eliminate competing stakes races in the crowded mid-Atlantic market.

The series will allow fans to follow horses, owners and trainers as they compete head-to-head, much like NASCAR drivers and professional golfers. The races will be heavily promoted, Foreman said.

"It's a very impressive package," he said. "We have not targeted the Grade I horses. We are dealing with good horses and good races, Grade IIs and Grade IIIs, and races we hope will develop gradings."

For example, the series for 3-year-olds-and-upward long will include the $100,000, 1 1/8 -mile William Donald Schaefer Handicap on May 17 (Preakness Day) at Pimlico, the $200,000, 1 1/8 -mile Grade III Baltimore Breeders' Cup Handicap on July 5 at Laurel and the $250,000, 1 1/16-mile Grade II Philip H. Iselin Handicap on Aug. 23 at Monmouth.

Pub Date: 2/05/97

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