MATCH organizers betting less is more

On Horse Racing

February 27, 2000|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

The fourth MATCH (Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships) series will begin with one race April 22 at Pimlico and end Oct. 7 with five races at the Meadowlands, Delaware Park and Colonial Downs.

Alan Foreman, founder of MATCH, has released the schedule of 30 races -- six each in five divisions. That's one race fewer per division than in past years. One reason for the cutback was the withdrawal from the series of Penn National and Philadelphia Park. But the bigger reason, Foreman said, was reducing the wear and tear on horses.

Horsemen had complained that seven races in five months demanded too much of their horses. A six-race series should promote fuller fields, competition and healthier horses, Foreman said.

The idea behind MATCH from the beginning was coordinating stakes races at regional tracks. Too many conflicted, resulting in diluted fields and disinterested bettors. The series also offered bonuses for the owners and trainers of horses earning the most points overall and in each division.

This year, MATCH will award $510,000 in bonuses. The owner of the overall points leader will pocket $100,000. The trainer will collect $50,000. The connections of the top three horses in each division will also earn bonuses (first place, owner $25,000, trainer $15,000; second place, owner $15,000, trainer $10,000; third place, owner $10,000, trainer $5,000).

Those bonuses are the same as last year, but the system for earning points has changed. Horses will earn 10 points for winning a MATCH race, eight for second, six for third, four for fourth, two for fifth and one for sixth through last.

In addition, for the first time horses can earn points for participation: 10 for starting in all six races, seven for starting in five, and five for starting in four. Horses must compete in at least three races in a division to qualify for bonus money.

Foreman said he is finalizing a MATCH-TVG partnership that will result in coverage of several MATCH races. TVG is the fledgling satellite-and-cable racing network that so far in Maryland is available via satellite dish but not cable.

Also, Foreman said, he's working on marketing initiatives with the Daily Racing Form and National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

Asked whether he thinks horsemen have accepted MATCH, Foreman said: "We're absolutely convinced of that based on last year's participation. Events like this take four or five years to get off the ground. We're very excited about this series."

Speak Compelling back

Speak Compelling, the 3-year-old filly who unexpectedly gave birth to a filly foal in her stall at Philadelphia Park, has returned to the racetrack. The baby remains at a farm for orphan foals, developing well on milk formula, said Lynda Gallagher, who with her husband, Bill, owns both horses.

But for the Gallaghers, residents of Newtown, Pa., the mystery of who impregnated Speak Compelling continues to torment. They bought the Maryland-bred daughter of Compelling Sound in December for $13,000, not realizing she was pregnant. In fact, nobody realized she was pregnant -- until her groom discovered the foal in her stall early on Jan. 30.

Speak Compelling had raced four times carrying her baby, including 11 days before giving birth.

The Gallaghers are trying to solve the mystery so that the baby, if her father is ever identified, can be registered as a thoroughbred (if indeed her father is a thoroughbred) and perhaps grow up to become a racehorse.

"This is just mind-boggling," said Lynda Gallagher, a retired schoolteacher. "I just think it's only fair that this baby be registered. She's just absolutely adorable, God bless her little soul."

The Gallaghers have pinpointed early last March as the time Speak Compelling, not even 2 years old (she was born April 30, 1997), became pregnant. She was at a training farm in Florida. Her owners are trying to find out if a colt at the farm might have gotten loose.

Meanwhile, the baby, nearly a month old, resides at Justaplain Farm in Cochranville, Pa. The farm specializes in raising orphan foals. She and Speak Compelling were separated about two weeks after birth so that mother could return to Philadelphia Park, Lynda Gallagher said.

She said that she struggled with the decision, but that people familiar with the process convinced her that the foal would be OK. Speak Compelling's trainer, Don Reeder, said she has been galloping lightly and might be able to race in five or six weeks.

Lynda Gallagher said mom and baby are fine. Speak Compelling, who had always pinned her ears back and tried to bite, is now accepting of Gallagher's hugs and kisses. The foal has attracted offers from people wanting her as a riding horse -- if the Gallaghers fail to identify the sire.

And the baby has earned a nickname at the farm. Her caretakers call her Who's Dad.

Pub Date: 2/27/00

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