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Some Waratah Continues To Surprise

Published: February 18, 2021 11:04 am ET

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It’s common for horses shipping over from New Zealand or Australia to need change: a new style of racing and training, to add Lasix, or just a change of scenery. And often there is nowhere to go but up for those horses. Take standout "Nifty" Norman import Let It Ride as an example. He lost 10 straight races in Australia before coming to the U.S., added Lasix, and became the next rising star pacer. However, when Some Waratah arrived in Amanda Kelley’s stable from Australia on a five-race win streak, she worried there was nowhere to go but down.

“That put a lot of pressure on me because I was like, ‘I don’t want to screw this horse up,’” Kelley said.

Despite Kelley’s fears and after two races in the U.S., Some Waratah extended his win streak to seven, first by taking a $25,000 Yonkers overnight Feb. 8 and then capturing the $30,000 Open Handicap Pace one week later.

“He’s doing everything right over there and he’s coming in and having to go up in class. That put more pressure on me,” Kelley said. “He wins that, second start in the U.S., welcome to America, here’s the Yonkers open. But he handled it.”

By Somebeachsomewhere out of three-time Group 1 winning and AU$564,770-earning mare Lady Waratah, Some Waratah began his career in Australia in 2017. He went four-for-13 through December 2018 before going on the shelf for just over a year. Some Waratah returned to the races in Jan. 2020 and through Aug. 2020 and won just two of 14 starts, including a claimer going for AU$6,120 at Tabcorp Park Menangle Aug. 10.

Some Waratah’s luck began to change Sept. 14, 2020 when he captured another claimer at the same level at Menangle. He then won two-straight races at Canberra on Sept. 21 and Sept. 28 before returning to Menangle Oct. 3 in the Free for All Pace. By now, he had caught the eye of agents like Chris Scicluna, who Kelley and owner Fred Scheigert work with, and they were interested in Some Waratah.

In that Free for All Pace, Some Waratah gunned to the lead and parked rival Dee Double You through a :26.5 first quarter. Some Waratah faced pressure throughout, getting a half in :55.9 and three-quarters in 1:23.1. The plugs came out as Some Waratah turned for home on the lead with a wall of horses fanning out behind him to take their shots, but they all missed. Some Waratah utilized a :27.2 final quarter to kick away from the field, scoring by open lengths in a lifetime best 1:50.3.

“I go through them, watch a bunch of replays, see how they move, see what we like about them and go from there,” Kelley said. “He just kept impressing us. He covers the ground effortlessly. He’s really floaty, he’s light on his feet, he’s really quick off the car and he showed that in all of his replays.”

Kelley and Scheigert struck a deal to buy Some Waratah and bring him to the U.S., but the previous owners wanted to race him one more time. “The dreaded one more time,” as Kelley calls it.

They entered Some Waratah in a Group 3 stakes at Menangle Oct. 10. From an inside post, he again went straight to the lead and parked rival Marty Major through a blistering :25.6 first quarter. Some Waratah got to the half in :54.2 and seemed vulnerable as Marty Major drew on even terms, Dee Double You and Escalera wound up wide, and Lets Katchmeifucan loomed in the pocket at the midway point of the final turn.

But just like last time, the plugs came out at the top of the stretch and Some Waratah revealed another gear. He held on to earn his first stakes win.

“Even the announcer didn’t think he could keep going, but he did; he dug in and won by a head. That heart in a horse really appealed to me,” Kelley said.

Some Waratah shipped to the U.S. by Nov. 2. Upon arriving in her Saratoga, N.Y. stable, Kelley was impressed by how athletic the seven-year-old gelding looked, even comparing him to a Greyhound.

“When we started working with him, I was really pleasantly surprised. You never know how they’re going to come. They have such a different style,” Kelley said. “Some of them can be a little difficult or stubborn or hot. He’s just pleasant to be around. He doesn’t do anything wrong. He’s friendly, he meets you at the gate, he wants you to brush on him and pet him, he likes his cookies. Just about anybody could jog him.”

Kelley worked with Some Waratah for about two months until he was ready to qualify Jan. 23. She took Some Waratah to the Meadowlands, where she intended to race him. Almost nothing went according to plan despite employing the driving services of Todd McCarthy, who won with Some Waratah at Menangle in April 2020. Still, Some Waratah finished second by a neck in 1:56.2.

“It was frigid. It was one of the worst, coldest days that we had and it was bitter. The first one, you want them to come back off the car, have a nice easy qualifier, maybe kick home a little bit. It ended up just a mess in there,” Kelley said. “Todd told me he had to leave with him and retake with him. He said he was OK. I don’t think he wowed him, but he was OK. I didn’t get a good read off of that one.”

Set to race another horse on the Jan. 29 program at Yonkers, Kelley decided to change plans with Some Waratah and enter him to qualify at the Hilltop before the card. With Tyler Buter in the bike, Some Waratah enjoyed a pocket trip before winning by three-quarter lengths in 1:56.4.

“He got around the track really well and Tyler said he was really good, so I decided to put him back in there to race,” Kelley said.

In his Yonkers debut on Feb. 8, Some Waratah had to change tactics. Coming from off the pace, Buter saved ground the first three-quarters of a mile before shifting out behind Twin B Speedo. Some Waratah angled three wide into the stretch and quickly engulfed pacesetter Moonshine Kisses. He then raced Arties Ideal to the wire, holding the closer off by a neck to post a 7-1 upset.

“We didn’t know what to expect his first start because as a general rule, when they get put in the box as a foreign horse, money doesn’t matter, you get put in non-winners of $20,000 (last five), but he had more money made than that, so we had to go in the winners over,” Kelley explained. “I was a little worried about that just off of two qualifiers. He surprised me when he got a good trip and found the wire.

“That’s not really his style,” Kelley also said. “He’s a leaver. He goes to the front and he likes it there. That’s where he does his best work, so I was a little worried about him even coming off the car and trying to get a trip. He did it that way, too so I was pleased. Any horse that will do it both ways is nice.”

Some Waratah returned in the Yonkers open handicap pace and this time, got to flaunt his speed. Buter sent him to the top through a :27.1 opening panel and played catch me if you can through fractions of :55.3 and 1:24.1 on a track rated good. With Shnitzledosomethin and Rockapelo parked the mile and Pat Stanley coming from eight-and-a-half lengths behind, Some Waratah was home free, earning a length victory in the Hilltop’s featured pace in 1:53.2.

“I decided to put him back in because he came out of his first start pretty well and afterwards, Tyler told me he was pretty sharp and he was really good,” Kelley said. “I was pretty surprised at the effort and he got a decent trip, some of the favorites got parked and it worked out for us.”

The win put Kelley in a predicament, however. She hadn’t planned on racing Some Waratah at Yonkers and hadn’t expected to win the Open Handicap so soon. She certainly wasn’t thinking about the Borgata Pacing Series before that win, which came just one day before the series nominations closed. Ultimately though, she opted not to stake him.

“We only had the one start going in and we didn’t have a good gauge on him,” Kelley said. “I don’t like to push them that hard when he just started racing here. We’re a three-hour ship, too, so I was a little worried about the distance for a six-week long event. I didn’t want to hurt him yet, push him that hard yet.”

Some Waratah earned a week off after his open victory, but will likely reappear in the open ranks at Yonkers and Saratoga throughout the spring.

“I’ll probably bounce between them,” Kelley said. “He likes Yonkers, obviously, so we’ll definitely be seeing some Yonkers.”

Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday through Friday with a first post time of 7:15 p.m. (EST).

(SOA of New York)

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