If you’ve been a regular attendee of racing at Saratoga Casino Hotel or even if you only make sporadic trips to the track, there is a good chance you knew Fred Scheigert. Even if you didn’t know him personally, his identifiable red jacket representing his stable was easily spotted pretty much on a nightly basis at the track going as far back as the late 1990’s. Fred’s love affair with horse racing started in the 90’s while taking a vacation to New Zealand. Although there was no racing going on at the time, Fred, who traveled a lot, was having lunch at a racetrack in New Zealand where harness racing is very big. He thought that owning horses would be a fun thing to be a part of and took the idea and ran with it. Harness racing would quickly become not just something he would enjoy but a way of life for Fred Scheigert.
Fred owned his first horses with a trainer in Florida and upon moving to New York in the late 90’s wound up purchasing a farm in Schaghticoke, just a few miles from Saratoga. Fred’s love affair with harness racing just took off from there and continued long after selling that farm many years later. Harness racing became his hobby, his passion, his life. Scheigert, who had a few different trainers along the way, handed the training duties for his horses to young conditioner Amanda Kelley in 2013. Relatively new to the business, Kelley was an assistant to one of Fred’s previous trainers and when she went out on her own, he gave her a chance. Fred married his wife Alexa that same year and his new wife would spend many nights in the grandstand watching the horses race.
Fred enjoyed all aspects of racing and of his horses. When Kelley was stabled at the track, Scheigert would come to the barn daily. “He loved everything about the sport,” Kelley told me. “He would come into the paddock sometimes for qualifiers. He loved to win, even a qualifier which is for no money. He still got excited when one of the horses won.” “He would come to the barn and even learned how to harness a horse. It wasn’t easy for him but he was determined and he did it.” What made that task so difficult for Fred is that he was legally blind. He could often be spotted with his signature binoculars that he attached to his glasses. The binoculars served as a mini-telescope and self adjusted to give him an opportunity to have some vision.
When Scheigert moved his horses to Kelley’s stable, he instructed his new trainer that they would claim horses but he didn’t want to buy them via other methods. That policy changed a few years ago when he purchased a top-flight pacer named Mar Nien A who wound up being an Open stalwart at the track before tragically passing away. Once Fred got a taste of top caliber horses, he liked it and reshaped his stable in the years that followed. In fact, the majority of the Scheigert-owned horses over the past few seasons have been Winners Over/Open level horses and most have which have been acquired via the Australia/New Zealand pipeline for Scheigert. This year, he has been the winningest owner of Open horses as his stable has piled up nine victories in local Opens in ’22. Despite the fact that several members of his stable have competed at Plainrdige in Massachusetts, Fred’s horses have won the Open Pace at the Spa eight times in addition to one score in the Fillies and Mares Open. The most recent score for the stable came on Saturday night when Scheigert’s Mach Le More A set a new lifetime mark wiring the field for the ninth Open win on the season, a staggering number for one owner.
While the Australian/New Zealand path has been a fruitful one for Scheigert over the last few years, it is a horse purchased at the Meadowlands sale in the winter of 2021 that has become the Kelley stable’s star. Lake Charles won the Open Pace three times in his debut season at the Spa in ’21 and has followed it up with five Open scores here in ’22, more than any other pacer at the track this year. Scheigert’s Infinite Symbol A pulled off a big time upset in the ladies’ Open in June when she upset at odds of 24-1 in what has been a banner season, particularly at the top level, for Scheigert’s group of pacers.
Every single person who has spoken of Fred Scheigert in the past few weeks has said something similar when his name was brought up. “What a sweet man.” “What a gentle, kind guy.” “Fred loved his horses.” All of that true and although my encounters with him were somewhat minimal, I enjoyed all of those interactions over the course of the years. When the clubhouse restaurant Fortunes was open, I would run into Fred there quite often and on a few occasions, I sat with him for a few minutes. He told me liked to read my weekly columns and especially loved one from back in 2014 in which I mentioned an owning double for him which occurred on his birthday and included a victory by of his favorite all-time horses Russ N Us. Kelley says that he made a point to read my column every week. He loved the horseman’s restaurant in the backstretch and while he was waiting for his lunch, he would use his trusty reading glasses to read the column in order to, as he wittingly said, “keep up on the competition.” “Fred loved the whole business. He lived the sport and just loved being a part of it. He’d write the schedule for the week down in his little black back. He even had the trainer’s book and would read it cover to cover,” Kelley fondly recalled of her owner. One of the biggest owners at Saratoga, Fred owned over 150 horses since just before the turn of the century and would often buy back horses that he had previously owned upon their retirement just to ensure that they would have a good home after their careers were over. His cherished Russ N Us joins his favorite all-time horse Predator DVM out on a farm these days as Fred gave them a great home after they had retired.
A few months back, Fred suffered a leg injury that laid him up for a while. His horses won two races on June 13th and Scheigert could only make it down near the winner’s circle instead of being in it. His picture was taken though and that’s what he loved. Sadly, the owning double on that card would be the final one for Fred who passed away on July 20th after a short illness. “His passing came as a shock,” Kelley said. “He wasn’t in the best health but we certainly didn’t expect this to happen. He was rehabbing from his leg injury and next thing we knew, his past kidney issues reared their head and he was gone. The pain is incredible. I can’t believe he’s gone.” Before his passing, Fred had just signed off on a purchase in which he would have another pair of Aussie horses make their way to the U.S and into his stable. “The pressure will be on with the two new ones,” Kelley admitted. “Hopefully they will do him proud. It was the final act in his lengthy love affair with owning horses.” As far as what will happen with the newly named ScheigertandAllies, LLC Racing Stable, Fred’s wife Alexa will continue on with the stable as per his request. “He had things set up for his passing. His desire was to keep things going so that’s what Alexa will do. The business will stay going. He always said It would be his legacy,” Kelley explained. Yes, the Scheigert stable will remain but Fred won’t be there to enjoy it. His signature red jacket and faithful binoculars won’t be spotted in the grandstand anymore. A fixture at the Spa for decades will be there no longer. What a sweet man Fred Scheigert was and one with a passion and love for the sport of harness racing that was second to none. He invested his money, his time and quite frankly his adult life on his horses. He will be sorely missed certainly by his wife Alexa, his trainer and close friend Amanda Kelley and by all those who enjoyed his one-liners and fast quips that he would give you when speaking with him. Rest in Peace Fred, the sport of harness racing and all of those who knew you will surely miss your smile and your passion. Fred Scheigert was 71 years old.
Live racing takes place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening this summer with first post times set for 6:45pm. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!