When he first became acquainted with the then yearling colt, Paul Kelley definitely wanted to bring him home. Yet he swiftly banished such reveries from his mind, for he knew Such An Angel was a horse with a price tag that would bust his budget. After all the son of Credit Winner-Michelle's Angel was a full brother to world champion and Yonkers Trot winner Archangel and last year's Empire Breeders Classic victor Dante. He simply could not afford him, but on this occasion, Kelley's dream became a reality.
"I was talking with Sam Caruso, the horse's co-owner, and he asked me if I liked this colt," said Kelley. "Of course I told him yes. I thought he was an extremely nice horse, but I knew he would go far too high for me to ever get him. That's when Sam said he wanted him and I told him there was no way that colt would go for under $200,000 at the Lexington Sale. Well, he bid on him and got him for $110,000. I don't know how it happened, but it sure was a bargain. Then after Sam bought him Wanda Polisseni came in on him too."
Such An Angel will attempt to make his sophomore debut a victorious one, when he and Brian Sears leave from post six in a field of seven at Vernon Downs on Monday in a $39,900 New York Sires Stakes engagement. His task, however, will not be a simple one as the field includes Dexter Cup winner Lord Cromwell (Jason Bartlett, post three), last year's NYSS freshman champion Devious Man (Andy Miller, post four) and the talented Another Chapter (Scott Zeron, post one).
"I really like how he came back from the winter," Kelley said. "He looks great and we are really looking forward to this season with him."
Purchased from the aforementioned 2015 edition of the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale, Such An Angel is the fourth foal from his prolific dam, who collected $436,921 from her racing career. Her dam is 1991 Dan Patch Award winner Almost An Angel.
With that type of heritage, the colt obviously had some significant expectations to live up to, which Kelley feels he has done exceedingly well as he banked $145,695 as a freshman, equaled Saratoga's track record of 1:57.4 in only his fourth start and was third in the $225,000 New York Sires Stakes final.
"Unfortunately he should have more money on his card, but around the end of August and beginning of September we started having some problems with him, as he was battling allergies," Kelley said. "He was not sick, but after he came out of the Sire Stakes final and the race down in Lexington (fifth-place finish in a division of the International Stallion Stakes) he did not scope clean.
"We were working on him, but it's hard to fight allergies because it has so much to do with environmental conditions and the weather. He was never completely sick, but it limited his ability to have that final kick at the end of his races. In both the final and in Lexington he had to come first-over and he just did not have that extra push to get him by."
Steered in eight of his trips to the post by John Campbell and the other two contests by his co-owner Caruso, Such An Angel compiled a record of 10-4-1-1 and captured four of his first five races. With the exception of his appearance in the Bluegrass State, the colt competed exclusively in New York Sires Stakes company.
The plan for the colt this year is to send him to other events than those within the confines of the Empire State.
"He is Hambletonian eligible, but we have two more months before we can think about that," Kelley said. "He is eligible to all the big stakes races and I think he deserves a chance to prove himself on the Grand Circuit. He's really big-gaited and although he can get around very well over a half-mile track, I think he will love the bigger tracks. We would love to be at the Meadowlands with him on Aug. 5, but we will just let the horse tell us what he wants to do. He will have the opportunities to do and we are very excited about him."
There is another horse in Kelley's barn that he is quite enthused to return to racing in defending Dan Patch Award and world champion Obrigado. The 7-year-old trotting superstar will make his second qualifying appearance on May 27 at the Meadowlands. He won his first qualifier at Vernon Downs on May 19 in 1:58.1.
"We missed the Cutler and will be missing the Maxie Lee with him, but that was by design," Kelley said. "We were taking our time with him and would have had to rush him to get him ready. It wasn't that he needed extra time as he came back looking great and looks great now. In fact, he seems like he's more than ready to get himself back in the game, but it's a long year and last year he seemed to get a little tired in the fall, although he did come back and win the TVG final.
"What also helped was that other race being added in Massachusetts at Plainridge that gave us one more thing to point towards a bit later on so we can take our time with him and pick and choose our spots. We are bringing him to Scioto again for the Charlie Hill on June 10 and I am really looking forward to racing him again this year. He seems ready to go and as good as ever." (Kim French/USTA)