Trainer Amanda Kelley’s stable features a pair of Saturday stars at Saratoga Casino Hotel. At least that was the case last season when Some Waratah A and Lake Charles combined to win the Open Pace seven times at the Spa. Australian invader Some Waratah A was purchased by the Scheigert Racing Stable of Saratoga Springs and kicked off his USA career early in 2021. As is the case for many of the Aussie and New Zealand invaders, Some Waratah A was lightly raced when he came to the States. The seven year old had only 33 lifetime starts on his resume when he debuted for the Kelley stable at Yonkers early last season. The Aussie import made an immediate impact winning his first two starts at Yonkers including one in their Open Pace. The spring belonged to Some Waratah A who posted an incredible seven wins and two seconds in his first nine U.S. starts.
In between thriving at Yonkers and even in a start at Plainridge, Some Waratah A made his presence felt with authority here at Saratoga. The budding Kelley stable star won his local debut in the Open before finishing second in it the following week. It appeared as if there was an extremely high ceiling for Some Waratah A when he not only rattled off three consecutive in the local feature last spring moving his Open win total at the Spa to four. By late summertime, though, the Spa’s early season star encountered some issues forcing him to be lightly raced for a couple months before wrapping his ’21 campaign up after making a break in a start on October 10th. Following a four month layoff, Some Waratah A prepped for his return to the track when in early February, he won a local qualifier last month with Leon Bailey at the controls. Bailey, Vernon Downs’ leading driver each of the last two years, has been a regular at Saratoga recently and has quickly established himself in the top ten among local reinsmen. He has become somewhat of the go-to guy for the Kelley stable this season and the 35 year old guided Some Waratah A to victory in his first start back off the nearly five month layoff when the now eight year old dropped and popped in his ’22 seasonal debut on March 5th. Due to the fact that the win came while way down in class compared to where he had been competing, the dominant score for Some Waratah A, which came in 1:54.2, certainly wasn’t enough to say “he’s back” but was clearly a step in the right direction for a horse whose ceiling is as high as any pacer that competed at the Spa last season.
On Saturday night, Some Waratah A began his ascent up the class ranks and competed in a $10,000 race for conditioned pacers. In a condensed field of five following a host of scratches, the former Open star wound up as the public’s 1-5 betting favorite when he cruised to a wire-to-wire score in 1:54 over a sloppy track as his climb towards potential Open Pace status continues. Can last year’s nominee for Pacer of the Year at the Spa return to a similar status? That remains to be seen but the return to the track seemingly couldn’t have gone any better for Some Waratah A who already owns four career victories in the local Open Pace and could be poised for more if he continues his ’22 trend in the right direction.
While Some Waratah A is trying to find that Open form again, there is another trainee of Amanda Kelley’s who has already reestablished himself as a stalwart against the top-level competition that he has squared off against early this season. Lake Charles accounted for the three Open Pace victories for the Kelley stable that didn’t belong to Some Waratah A last year. Although his season got off to a nondescript start, by summertime Lake Charles had established himself as a factor against the track’s top competition. After a third-place finish the week before, Lake Charles won his first local Open Pace on Labor Day weekend, a win that kicked off a strong fall season for the then four year old. By the time December came around, Lake Charles was peaking. Benefitting a bit, perhaps, by some rivals being a bit tired from the year-long grind in the Open, the Kelley trainee appeared fresh late in the year and simply thrived. Lake Charles scored two wire-to-wire victories in December in the $15,000 Open, the latter of the two coming on closing weekend with Bailey in the bike.
The 2022 campaign for Lake Charles began with a winning qualifier in February and since then, the current Kelley stable star has been putting his stamp on the Open Pace. After a pocket-sitting second in his return, Lake Charles went coast-to-coast on February 12th despite pacing a first quarter in 26.4. The race’s favorite the following week, the five year old finished third after getting a tough first-over journey. On Saturday, Lake Charles was back in the Open and despite a month long layoff was the public’s 7-5 betting favorite in the $15,000 feature. Bailey cruised the favorite out to the early lead and got a first half in a reasonable 57.3 without facing a challenge. Lake Charles felt pressure from the last installment of the Open’s winner Skyway Victor but held that one off in the stretch before stopping the timer in 1:54.1 to become the Open Pace’s first two-time winner in ’22 and give his connections, owner Scheigert&alliesracingllc, trainer Amanda Kelley and driver Leon Bailey a double on the card. While many things remain to be seen from the pair, particularly the path to comeback for Some Waratah A, the tandem that comprised the training double for Amanda Kelley last weekend could be one to watch on Saturday nights to come this year as two formidable Open Pace threats look to build on their early season successes.
Live racing takes place every Saturday evening starting at 5PM and on Sunday and Monday afternoons beginning at Noon. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!