There is no better way to phrase the current status of the Amanda Kelley stable than to say that it is simply “red hot.” The locally based trainer has been on a tear from pretty much the start of the 2021 campaign at Saratoga Casino Hotel and has even taken her winning ways on the road and thrived. Amanda Kelley began her training career in 2015 and as is the case with many new trainers, she didn’t have success right out of the gate. After a few lackluster seasons, Kelley saw her statistics improve significantly in the ’19 campaign. In ’19, Kelley won almost double as many races as she did in her previous best season of 2018. It was in that year though that she had her first real taste of Open success.
Several years back, Kelley took over as trainer for the Scheigert Racing Stable, of Saratoga Springs, a stable that has owned horses for over twenty years now. Owner Fred Scheigert loves to have horses that compete in Opens and that year, he acquired one for both the Open Trot and the Open Pace. A few years back, he recently saw a horse that he claimed climb up into Open company at the Spa and simply dominate. Bobs Hope enjoyed a stretch in early ’19 in which he won the Open Trot five times and had two runner-up tries in a seven-race stretch. It was the first real splash in the Open ranks for Kelley and it wouldn’t be her last. The Scheigert Stable and Kelley looked overseas for an Open Pacer and wound up purchasing Mar Nien A. The Aussie invader won the local Open Pace two times and had a pair of seconds in the pacing feature in limited tries that season to continue the breakout for Kelley in ‘19. Though the horse passed away the following year, Mar Nien A did pretty well while joining Bobs Hope to helping put Kelley on the map at least when it comes to Open competition.
Kelley and the Scheigert Stable attempted to find a replacement for their former Open Pace stalwart and went back “down under” to do so. They acquired Some Waratah A this winter with hopes that he would become a Open force. Fast forward about four months and it is safe to say, they got what they wanted. Some Waratah A won his first two starts out of the Kelley stable while competing at Yonkers. The second of the victories came in their $30,000 Open Pace. Some Waratah A debuted at Saratoga in March and has since recorded three starts in the feature for pacers and has booked a pair of wins as well as a second-place finish. All told, the seven year old has scored four wins and two seconds in seven starts en route to over $46,000 in earnings since moving to the U.S. and finding a home in the Kelley barn.
While she has thrived in Opens over the course of the last few years, it has been a mixed bag of horses that has yielded big time success for Kelley this year. Kelley scored a training triple on Tuesday afternoon at Saratoga to continue her hot streak. Claiming pacer Gunpowder N moved his local record to three-for-three on Tuesday when he won despite being parked the mile to complete his local hat trick with driver Greg Merton in the sulky. Young pacers Cigars And Port and Thor And Dr Jones rounded out the trio of Kelly winners on the afternoon at the Spa. Cigars And Port was back in town off a career-best win at Plainridge Park the previous week and continued his roll in the matinee’s finale. While Gunpowder N and Cigars And Port scored impressive victories, it was a Kelley newbie who really opened eyes.
Thor And Dr Jones made his debut out of the Kelley barn on Tuesday and the promising youngster didn’t waste any time in paying dividends for his new connections. A recent purchase by the VIP Internet Stable, Thor And Dr Jones had a win and a second in his two career starts leading into his local debut last week. Regular Kelley stable pilot Greg Merton was at the controls as the three year old cruised to a coast-to-coast victory in a sizzling 1:55.1. An impressive mile to say the least and a solid building block race towards the JP Morel Memorial Pacing Series which starts this week. Tuesday afternoon will mark the kickoff of the series that honors the memory of the longtime leading driver at Saratoga. Thor And Dr Jones comes into the series as one of its top young pacers on paper while fresh off the eye-catching score in his local debut. There will be two divisions of the first leg of the Morel Pace on Tuesday and of the sixteen horses set to compete, there are two that seem to be a tick faster than the rest. Thor And Dr Jones is one of them but the issue for that three year old is the other standout heading into the series, a gelding named Unique Beach, is in the same division as the new Kelley trainee and will be a handful to try and beat in the series that gets underway this week.
Though Some Waratah A is the Kelley stable’s star, there is a pacing mare who is making a good case to be a strong running mate to that Open star. Rckaroundtheclock N, like Some Waratah A, came from overseas this winter and the New Zealand invader has been nothing shy of sensational since coming to the States and more specifically, the Kelley barn. Now just two months into her American racing career, Rckaroundtheclock N has rattled off five wins in her six starts for Kelley and Merton. After going three-for-three at Saratoga, Rckaroundtheclock N headed down to Yonkers to compete in and thrive in two $14,000 tilts in which she proved dominant. Rckaroundtheclock N has gone off at odds of 2-5 or 1-5 in each of her six races thus far and has almost always lived up to the hype. On Wednesday afternoon, the Kelley stable’s leading lady will look to continue her winning ways as she takes part in the first leg of the Virginia O’Brien Memorial Pacing Series. Greg Merton will sit behind the five year old as she will almost certainly be a 1-5 or even 1-9 favorite as she looks to stay red hot. To say Rckaroundtheclock N is the big favorite in the series for lady pacers would be a massive understatement. In fact, assuming she can avoid any issues along the way, it would be nothing short of shocking if she doesn’t emerge among the seventeen distaffers in the O’Brien Memorial as the top dog. Amanda Kelley heads into this week’s action in a tie with Margaret Spagnola for second-place among local trainers despite racing at several other tracks and recording far less starts at the Spa than several of the other conditioners who reside near the top of the trainer standings. Amanda Kelley’s barn is red hot and with the series’ starting this week, her stable may not have to wait long to see some more victories pile up.
Live racing takes place every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at Saratoga with first post times set for 12 Noon. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!