The MATCH Series was part of the two biggest days on the Delaware Park racing calendar, and the two series stakes generated strong pari-mutuel handle compared with the same races in 2017. Overall wagering on both days was strong when comparisons are made to previous years.
MATCH was relaunched this year after 16 years on the shelf, and one of the goals at the outset was to help racetracks grow handle. Delaware Park was part of the series from 1997-2001, and this year hosted two of the series' 25 races on back-to-back weekends: the $75,000 Dashing Beauty Stakes July 7 and the $75,000 Hockessin Stakes July 14.
Wagering on Dashing Beauty—both in-race and for horizontal bets that started with the race—totaled $231,797, which was up 96.1% from $118,190. This year there were seven starters in the Dashing Beauty, third of five races in the MATCH Filly and Mare Sprint—Dirt Division, versus eight in 2017.
The Hockessin, the third of five stakes in the 3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint—Dirt Division, generated total handle of $399,671, a jump of 106.4% from last year, when $193,554 was wagered in-race and on horizontal bets that started with the race. There were seven starters this year versus five in 2017.
The July 7 program at Delaware Park featured four stakes including the grade III Delaware Oaks, while the July 14 card had four stakes headed by the grade II Delaware Handicap. Both produced solid wagering figures.
Total handle for this year's Oaks program was $2,465,808, up 69.2% from $1,457,162 last year. The Del Cap card this year produced $3,498,223 in total wagering, down 18.7% from $4,302,353 in 2017 but up 55.7% from $2,245,707 in 2016. It's important to note that more than $2.1 million last year was wagered in the Del Cap win, place and show pools alone because of the presence of heavy favorite Songbird, who won the race and created minus pools.
The MATCH Series moves back to Monmouth Park July 29, the day of the grade I, $1 million Haskell Invitational, with two stakes: the grade III, $150,000 Monmouth Cup in the 3-Year-Olds and Up Long—Dirt Division, and the $75,000 Wolf Hill Stakes in the 3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint—Turf Division. The Monmouth Cup is the third of five legs in its division, while the Wolf Hill is the fourth of five.
The Monmouth Cup at 1 1/8 miles closed with 11 nominations including Adam Staple and Jalin Stable's Page McKenney, the only nominee with two starts in his division. Should he compete in the race, the gelding will qualify for MATCH Series bonus money.
The Wolf Hill at 5 ½ furlongs closed with 29 nominations, including Mary Eppler Racing Stable's Oak Bluffs, who already has three starts in his division including a win in the Pennsylvania Governor's Cup. Ten others on the list of nominees have raced in the division, including the winners of the other two division stakes thus far: Breeze Easy's Imprimis, who won the grade III Maryland Turf Sprint, and Mr. Amore Stable's Vision Perfect, who captured the grade III Parx Dash.
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