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YONKERS, N.Y. – Multiple stakes winner Obrigado made his last harness racing start in the $200,000 Caesars Trotting Classic at Hoosier Park Sept. 21, 2018. Despite finishing fourth beaten just 1 3/4 lengths by Triple Crown winner Marion Marauder and trotting his final quarter in :27.0, Obrigado did not emerge from the race well. Trainer Paul Kelley faced the reality that the career of his $1.8 million earner was over. “He had a little bit of a suspensory issue going around there, which was something we had never experienced with him before. "He’s had other aches and pains for sure. It wasn’t really looking too good. We scanned it a few times and pretty much the prognosis looked like retirement was probably the right thing to do,” Kelley said. “Wintertime was coming on and you want to find any horse a good, permanent home,” Kelley continued. “I was kind of scrambling; I didn’t really have any options. I figured the best scenario would be to get him someplace where he could be turned out for the winter and let him heal up naturally on his own.” Kelley sent Obrigado to Chris Coyle's Olive Branch Farm in North Carolina, where the 9-year-old son of Boy Band wintered and recuperated. Come April, Kelley still didn’t have a forever home lined up for the Boy Band son, so the trainer brought him to his racing stable at Congress Hill Farm in Monroe, N.J. “He’s one of those horses that you don’t really want to part with,” Kelley said. “At one point, I was thinking maybe I’ll be the permanent home.” However, Obrigado didn’t find retired life of daily paddock turnouts interesting enough, especially when forced to watch the other Standardbreds going to the track every morning. Kelley recognized the horse needed work. “We were putting him out in the paddock every day, but you could tell he was a little bored just doing that; that wasn’t enough, especially being in the barn with all the other horses that were getting tacked up and going to the track every day. He’s an intelligent horse and he wanted to do that too,” Kelley explained. Kelley had Obrigado’s leg scanned again, and with a green light from the vet, began light jogging on the track, swimming sessions, and under saddle riding. Obrigado took to his work and started to rebuild his foundation. With routine scans coming back clean, Kelley started to step on the gas over the summer. “The horse loves being on the track. He loves being out there with other horses. That was really the easy part of it all,” Kelley said. “It wasn’t like we had to push him along. He’s always been a happy horse, likes work, likes the competition and all that. “We just gradually increased the workload to the point where we got to August and we felt like he’d had enough groundwork, maybe we can start some more speed work with him. We did that and I held my breath for a long time thinking, ‘Is he going to be OK? Is he going to come out of it OK?’ So far, he’s been remarkable, he’s been just fine.” A 45-time winner in 92 starts, Obrigado’s accomplishments include a pair of Maine Sire Stakes championships in 2012 and 2013 and the Crawford Farms Open Trot in 2015. Obrigado’s biggest season came in 2016, when he captured the Maxie Lee, Charlie Hill Memorial, Cleveland Trotting Classic, Cashman Memorial, repeated in the Crawford Farms Open Trot, won the Dayton Trotting Derby, and competed in the $1 million Yonkers International Trot before closing the year with a victory in the $400,000 TVG FFA Trot. Obrigado remained competitive on the Grand Circuit in 2017 and 2018 before going on the shelf. “Mentally, that horse has never changed. That’s what’s remarkable about him,” Kelley said. “You see people sometimes; your attitudes go up and down throughout a racing season. You see that with horses; horses have lulls where they just don’t seem to be too keen. He’s never ever been that way. He’s always just been real bright-eyed, real keen, head out over the gate, and ears are always forward. That’s just the kind of horse he is. He’s a happy fella and he really loves being out on the track and he loves being out with other horses all the time.” Obrigado will make his comeback Saturday night (Dec. 7) in the $42,000 Open Handicap Trot at Yonkers Raceway. Dan Dube will drive the 8-1 morning line shot from an assigned inside post position for owners Paul Kelley Racing Stable, S R F Stable, and Linwood Higgins. Obrigado prepared for his return with three qualifiers at Freehold. Rene Sejthen drove Obrigado to a second-place finish in 2:01.1 over a good track with a minus two variant Nov. 1 and again took the lines in a 13 1/4-length qualifying win on a fast track in 2:00.0 with a minus one variant Nov. 8. Kelley brought in Dube for Obrigado’s final trial Nov. 22, in which the gelding posted a 1:59.2 win. “My second trainer Rene took him the first two times and he was doing the right thing with the horse and being cautious and letting the horse do it on his own,” Kelley said. “I know from talking to Rene the weather conditions on those days weren’t particularly good. According to Rene, they were both really good miles for Obrigado considering the conditions and the horse did everything on his own and real easy. “I skipped a week and then I had Dan Dube take him the last time and I just told him, ‘Make sure he does a little work the last half of the mile. He’s got to go a little bit.’ It was kind of a funny qualifier because he got caught in and a couple of pacers were battling things out up front. When Dan finally got him out and got rolling, I think he trotted his back-half in about :57.2 and he came a good last quarter, so that was good. It gives him a little bit of speedwork.” Obrigado will face a difficult field in his return, including the first four finishers from the $35,000 Preferred Handicap Nov. 23: Stormy Kromer, Will Take Charge, Lean Hanover, and Swansea. Sumatra and Winning Shadow step up off overnight wins Nov. 22 to complete the lineup. “I suspect it’s going to take him a couple of races to get up to speed with the rest of the horses he’s got to race against, but everything has gone very well,” Kelley said. “He’s come back very well, so it will really be interesting to see what happens over the course of the winter. “He’s coming off the bench and he’s been on the bench for 14 months, so I can’t expect him to be tip-top, but maybe by having the inside, he can save some ground,” Kelley continued. “I know the horse is going to be competitive from his own standpoint, but maybe he’s not physically ready quite yet. I would expect it’s going to take two races for him to get up to speed. I think that’s realistic.” Although he will take things on a start-by-start basis, Kelley hopes to race Obrigado at Yonkers throughout the winter. Obrigado sports a 7-for-19 record at the Hilltop with seven additional placings, all at the Open level or higher. Kelley will also look for options during Yonkers’ hiatus beginning Dec. 18 and continuing into early Jan. 2020. “We’ll get a couple of starts in at Yonkers and then they go on break,” Kelley said. “Maybe with Yonkers down, (Freehold) will be able to fill an Open. That’s a possibility if I can do that for a race or two until Yonkers comes back, but I think Yonkers is where I’d like to race him the most over the course of the winter. I think he could be a real good winter horse for Yonkers.” Kelley also hopes to reunite Obrigado with Mark MacDonald, who’s last driving start came with Kelley’s The Veteran at Saratoga July 20. MacDonald suffered a fractured shoulder joint, among other injuries, in a pre-race spill later that night, but is approaching a return to the sulky. “(Obrigado) definitely likes this track, he knows his way around that track for sure, so it makes sense,” Kelley said. “I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but I’m hoping around the first of February, Mark MacDonald should be back and it would be great if I have the horse coming off the shelf and Mark coming off the shelf and we can reunite the two of them. “The partners are all excited. They’re all amazed just like I am that he’s back. Horses like that, they’re once-in-a-lifetime horses,” Kelley said. “They’re remarkable in their own way. Where there’s a will, there’s a way and they find a way to get back in the game. I’m just hoping we can go week to week, he can stay sound and we can manage him properly and it can be a fun 2020.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through December 17.  By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY, Sunday, August 19, 2018-Favored Obrigado (Mark MacDonald, $4.20) pounced from the pocket Sunday afternoon (Aug. 19th), winning Yonkers Raceway's featured $44,000 off-going Open Handicap Trot. The weekly trotting feature went at the flat mile, the 11th of 12 races and well after the four added-distance 'French' races. Generously assigned post position No. 2, Obrigado worked around polester Dewycolorintheline (Ray Schnittker) as outside number In Secret (George Brennan) hurdled his six foes and made the lead. After early intervals of :27.1 and :56.1, Such an Angel (Brent Holland) tried it first-up from fourth. The bid was both brief and poor with In Secret finding a 1:24.3 three-quarters. He took a length-and-a-half lead into the lane, but Obrigado was lurking. That one edged out and edged away, prevailing by three-quarters of a length in 1:55. Charmed Life (Steve Smith) overcame a weak tow to grab second, with In Secret, Andy Ray (Jason Bartlett) and Dewycolorintheline rounding out the payees. For Obrigado, an 8-year-old Boy Band gelding co-owned by (trainer) Paul Kelley, Linwood Higgins, S R F Stable & Stable 45, it was his second win in five seasonal starts (career 44-for-90, earnings over $1.76 million). The exacta paid $38, the triple returned $244 and the superfecta paid $542. Sunday's verse of the 'New York, New York Double' featured a winning combination of 1-Glory to Kitten (part of entry, Saratoga's 1st race) and 7-Deo (Yonkers' 3rd race), returning $7.70 for every correct $1 ticket. Total pool was $6,992. The next Sunday matinee is Aug. 26th (post time TBA). by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

Obrigado (Rene Sejthen) looked in prime form beating the best trotters at Tioga Downs on Saturday (July 21). Obrigado ($5.20) was bet as the second choice to Barn Bella (Claude Huckabone). Obrigado controlled all the fractions (:27.3, :56.3, 1:25.0, 1:53.3). He went to the lead and never gave it up even as he was pressured all the way down the backstretch and the final turn by the betting favorite, Barn Bella (Claude Huckabone Jr.). Prairie Fortune (Jim Meittinis) took a run at him in the stretch but settled for second best. Barn Bella gutted it out to finish third. Obrigado is an 8-year-old gelding by Boy Band. Owned by trainer Paul Kelley as well as SRF Stable, L Higgins and Stable 45. It was his first win in two years and career victory number 43. He has won almost 1.8 million dollars in his career. Truth And Liberty (Mike Simons) fires late to capture Fillies and Mares Open Handicap ($12,000). Roll With Sparky led the group to the first quarter in :27.1 and the half in :56.1. K J's Caroline (Mike Merton) then took a short lead before hitting three-quarters in 1:23.4. Truth And Liberty ($5.20), who is owned by Fairy Horsemother Stables and trained by Simons, went three wide at the top of the stretch and blew right by to win in 1:52.3. MC Attagirl (Fern Paquet Jr.) came up late to finish second. K J's Caroline settled for third. Truth And Liberty is a 6-year-old mare by Total Truth. It was her third win in 2018. She now has 31 lifetime victories. Live racing returns to Tioga Downs on Sunday (July 22) with a 13 race card starting at 6:15. For more information go to www.tiogadowns.com   by John Horne, for Tioga Downs

Vernon, N.Y. -- Paul Kelley trainee Obrigado looks to defend his title in Friday (August 26) evening's $193,000 Crawford Farms Open Trot at Vernon Downs, but he'll once again have to contend with the likes of Resolve, Homicide Hunter, and Flanagan Memory after squaring off against them throughout the harness racing season.   Obrigado (7-2 morning line second choice, post 7) has won 4 of 11 races this year, including the Maxie Lee Memorial at Harrah's Philadelphia, the Charlie Hill Memorial at Scioto Downs, and the Cleveland Classic at Northfield. While doing his best work on small tracks this season, his most impressive performance may well have come over two turns in the Cashman Memorial at the Meadowlands earlier in the month, where he escaped traffic on the far turn and stormed home in :26.4 in pursuit of Resolve. Regular driver Mark MacDonald will once again pilot the 6-year-old Boy Band gelding for the partnership of the Paul Kelley Racing Stable, the SRF Stable, Linwood Higgins, and Stable 45.   Elitloppet runner-up and Cashman winner Resolve (5-2, post 6) looks to lead the charge to upend the defending champion in the night's tenth event, having also won the Arthur Cutler Memorial this season. Ãke Svanstedt trains and drives the 5-year-old Muscle Hill entire. Flanagan Memory (9-2, post 8) also enters from the Cashman, finishing a gathered-in third after seizing command through a bold middle move. The 6-year-old Kadabra entire earned all four of his seasonal wins in Preferred company at Mohawk. Brian Sears will take over the lines for trainer Rene Dion.   While Obrigado, Resolve, and Flanagan Memory have faced each other on multiple occasions this year, a new shooter is quickly gathering momentum. Homicide Hunter (6-1, post 2)--representing Crawford Farms Racing--enters off a decisive 1:50.1 victory in last week's Sebastian K Invitational at Pocono, brushing to the fore with a circuit to go and edging away to a four-length score. David Miller handles the driving duties of the 4-year-old Mr Cantab gelding for trainer Chris Oakes.   In the $170,000 Muscle Hill for distaff trotters (race 9), 21-time winner Hannelore Hanover (5-2, post 7) looks to maintain her dominance after winning 12 of her 13 assignments this year. The 4-year-old daughter of Swan For All proved a decisive and handy winner in her Miss Versatility preliminary at Tioga on August 14, completing the mile in 1:52.4 over off going yet with much in reserve. Yannick Gingras will remain aboard the Ron Burke trainee, who also captured the Miami Valley Distaff and the Armbro Flight, as well as the Fresh Yankee and Hambletonian Maturity over the 1-1/8-mile distance.   Among those aiming to hand Hannelore Hanover her second defeat of the year are Jewels in Hock (7-2, post 2, John Campbell), 2015 Empire Breeders Classic winner Barn Doll (9-2, post 4, Jeff Gregory), and double millionaire Shake It Cerry (6-1, post 5, David Miller).   A pair of New York Sire Stakes events for 2-year-old pacing colts and geldings headline the undercard, with the undefeated Serious Major and Funknwaffles due to square off in the $55,500 eighth event.   Horsemen are reminded that entrants for the Crawford Farms and Muscle Hill events will race out of the detention barn, and they are due to arrive no later than 8:00 p.m. Thursday (August 25). Horsemen in need of hotel rooms for the weekend are advised to contact the race office at 315.829.6825.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

On a steamy Saturday (June 11) evening at Scioto Downs, Obrigado fended off the late charge of track record holder and harness racing world champion Natural Herbie to claim the trophy for the $210,000 Charlie Hill Memorial Trot. The 6-year-old gelding, piloted by regular reinsman Mark MacDonald, was the beneficiary of a perfect pocket trip, which the duo parlayed into a powerful 1:53.3 score. “He is just such a great horse,” said MacDonald. “You can do anything you want with him and all he wants to do is win. For some reason, I’m not sure why, we just get along. Tonight you could not have asked for a better position and then he did all the rest.” Leaving from post six, the gelded son of Boy Band and the Malabar Man mare Malimony, settled into second behind the leader and recent world champion Muscle Up The Goal. Content to allow the hometown favorite and the public’s selection at 4-5 to set the pace, Obrigado simply followed that rival around the Columbus oval behind fractions of :27.1, 57.3 and 1:25.3 before he was pulled out of the pocket at the top of the stretch to commence his drive to the wire with a :27.4 final panel. Obrigado glided by Muscle Up The Goal and completed his victorious journey to the wire seemingly well in hand. Natural Herbie placed pressure on the property of conditioner Paul Kelley, SRF Stable, Linwood Higgins, and Stable 45, however, his first over bid rendered him unable to match strides with the victor. Flanagan Memory, the 2013 O’Brien Award winner, closed from eighth to nab the show spot. Sent off at odds of 3-1, Obrigado paid his supporters $8.20. Natural Herbie, dismissed at 22-1, provided $14.40 to place and Flanagan Memory at 9-1 offered $7.40 to show. The exacta was $68 and the trifecta a generous $475.80. “I could not have asked for a trip around this track that was any better,” MacDonald said. “It was like a dream and honestly, I was shocked it worked out that well for us. I knew Natural Herbie was coming down on us and I respect him because he is such a nice horse, but my horse had the advantage off how this race set up. This was a very strong group of horses and it is a great win for us.” A Maine champion as a freshman and sophomore, Obrigado is the pride of Kelley’s stable and rightfully so, as the horse has now banked enough from his career record of 67-37-14-6, including this evening’s purse, to be roughly $4,000 shy of millionaire status. Purchased by Kelley, who was drawn to what an exemplary physical specimen he is, for $53,000 at the 2013 Standardbred Mixed Sale, Obrigado has been a winning machine before and after leaving the confines of his home state. Although Kelley shied away from top competition at age four, he placed the horse with the elite of his division last year as a 5-year-old and he has excelled. In 2015 he earned $405,535 with a record of 4-6-3 from 18 trips to the gate and knocked heads with all the best trotters currently competing in the sport. This year Obrigado has trotted five miles with three victories, one second and one third. Despite it being only June, the gelding has already collected just under $250,000 in purse money. The win in this Grand Circuit event is the second consecutive triumph for Obrigado in 2016 and comes immediately subsequent to his huge victory in the $200,000 Maxie Lee Memorial at Harrah’s Philadelphia on May 29. “I think he is even better than last year,” MacDonald said. “It is like he is in a zone and in peak form. It was not like he was bad by any means last year. He is a very smart horse that does nothing wrong and I think this season is going to be very fun with him and might be his best yet. “Paul (Kelley) wanted me to drive him as a 4-year-old, but circumstances did not work out to enable me to. Paul protected him and kept him up at Saratoga that year so he did not have to face many of the best trotters. I think that strategy is working out now, as he is so sharp and I know I can count on him for many more appearances in big races this season. Paul has really done a tremendous job with this horse and the horse himself just has all the tools. There is no denying he is right there with the best racing right now and he continues to make me very happy.” by Kimberly French, USTA Internet News Editor

Harness racing driver Mark MacDonald was the star of the show Saturday night, sweeping both of Yonkers Raceway's $40,000 co-featured Open Handicaps with favored Great Vintage (Pace, $5.30) and Obrigado (Trot, $8.20). Great Vintage, assigned post position No. 2, two-moved around Texican N (Jordan Stratton), then set sail on his appointed rounds (:27.4, 56.3, 1:24.2, season-matching 1:52). The people's choice eventually disposed of a first-up Bettor Rock On N (Dan Dube), then took a three-quarter length lead into the lane. He fended off an inside bid of Texican N by half-length in 1:52. Artistic Major (Brent Holland) rallied very well for third, with Ideal Cowboy (Jason Bartlett) and Atta Boy Dan (George Brennan) settling for the remainder. For Great Vintage, an 8-year-old son of American Ideal trained by Jimmy Takter for co-owners his wife, Christina, John Fielding, Goran Anderberg and Goran Falk, it was his third win in seven seasonal starts. The exacta paid $28.80, with the triple returning $220.50. As for Obrigado, he did his damage-from assigned post No. 5-from first-up. Away six, he saw Luminosity (Brennan) lead through intervals of :27.4, :57.2 and 1:26.1. It was Luminosity holding a short lead into the lane, but Obrigado was relentless. He keep at it, whipping Luminosity by a length in 1:54.2. Homicide Hunter (Stratton) was third, with tepid 5-2 choice Major Athens (Brian Sears) and Allerage Star (Pat Lachance) earning the minor moolah. For second choice Obrigado, an 6-year-old Boy Band gelding co-owned by (trainer) Paul Kelley, Linwood Higgins, SRF Stable and Stable 45, it was his first win in a pair of '16 tries. The exacta paid $33.60, the triple returned $179 and superfecta paid $579. Saturday's $30,000 Preferred Handicap Pace was won by Machtu N (Steve Smith, $7.70) in a night's-best 1:50.4 for a first North American victory. Frank Drucker  

Former harness racing Maine champion to make seasonal debut in $150,000 Playoff on Sunday, May 8 at the Meadowlands Trainer Paul Kelley will be the first to admit that his star trotter Obrigado has been "a pleasant surprise." Kelley bought the former Maine-bred champion at the 2013 Harrisburg Sale for $53,000 with the hope that he would develop into a nice open trotter at Saratoga. Instead, the six-year-old gelding by Boy Band - Malimony, by Malabar Man has become a top-class stakes horse who earned $405,535 in 2015 with a signature win in the $200,000 Crawford Farms Trot at Vernon Downs and a runner-up finish to close out the year in the $400,000 TVG Free For All Final. Obrigado is part of an all-star field of nine entered in Sunday's inaugural $150,000 Mack Lobell Elitlopp Playoff at the Meadowlands. The race winner will receive an invitation to the Elitlopp at Solvalla Racecourse in Sweden on May 29. The Playoff is scheduled for Race 1 on Sunday's matinee program with a post time of 12:40 p.m. It will be broadcast live on national television in Sweden and anchors a six-race trotting block that will make up the V64 wager in Sweden. Obrigado spent his winter in Florida with Kelley and posted two winning qualifiers at Pompano Park before shipping north. He qualified last Saturday at the Meadowlands in 1:54.1 with a final quarter in 27.1 in his final tune-up before Sunday. "He had a really good winter and Wally Hennessey was especially happy with his second qualifier," explained Kelley. "He needed a good stiff training mile last weekend because he can tend to be a lazy horse. That effort was good for him to stretch his legs and open his lungs up. I don't know if I have him 100 percent where I want him to be, but if he's up to it, he will be right there on the wire and if not, then he is not quite ready." Kelley shares ownership of Obrigado with Linwood Higgins, Stable 45, and the SRF Stable of Lennart Agren. Agren bought the ownership share previously held by Bill Weaver, the legendary owner and breeder who passed away this past February at the age of 79. Agren is from Sweden and owns 2015 Elitlopp Champion, Magic Tonight. "Mr. Agren is a great sportsman and horseman and I know he would love nothing more than to have Obrigado race over at Solvalla," said Kelley. "I have been fortunate to attend the Elitlopp and it is truly a tremendous event. I am familiar with the whole setup over there and know how difficult it is for an American horse to win, especially this year where Nuncio looks like he will be a big favorite and have the home course advantage." Fans can learn more about each of the horses entered in the Mack Lobell Elitlopp Playoff by visiting www.elitloppplayoff.com/ and can join the discussion on social media using #ElitloppPlayoff. Wagering Update With the change to the regular Meadowlands schedule by racing on Sunday afternoon, the regular guarantees in the Pick Five and two Pick Four wagers will not be in place. The jackpot amounts in the Super High Five wagers will remain. Justin Horowitz  

Obrigado (Boy Band) took today's Open Trot at Saratoga, for harness racing driver Mark Macdonald and trainer Paul Kelley. After getting away last, Obrigado circled the field for a victory in 1:55.4. Live racing continues Thursday with a post time set for 4pm. Mike Sardella  

Harness racing driver Corey Callahan got the jump on Driver of the Week honors, finding the winner's circle five times on Friday night at The Meadowlands. Callahan didn't waste any time, winning the first two year old event of the season at The Meadowlands, with the John Butenschoen trained Ideal Rocky, a Rocknroll Hanover colt that cost $47,000 at the Harrisburg yearling sale. Callahan and Butenschoen would team up again later on the night, winning a condition trotting event with the Currier and Ives winner, Suit and Tie (Andover Hall). The Captain would also go on to score with B Stern (Bettor's Delight) in wire to wire fashion in a condition pacing event for fillies and mares at 13-1. He also guided Beach Story (Somebeachsomewhere) to a strong win in a very tough upper-level condition pacing event for mares and steered Tirade Hanover (Crazed) to a well-meant win in a competitive middle level condition trotting event. With the five wins, Callahan moved into the top-five in the Meadowlands drivers standings. The feature race of the night was the $50,000 TVG Free For All Trot, the third leg in the $1.2 Million series. Obrigado made his debut in the series and he made it a winning one, scoring in impressive fashion in 1:51.3, a lifetime best performance. Last week, Obrigado found himself locked in throughout the mile while crying out for racing room in the stretch, Mark Macdonald made sure that wouldn't happen this time, putting his gelding in the game early. But Obrigado had to work hard early on, parked out by DW's NY Yank, the 9/5 favorite and the two raced in tandem past the quarter in 26.3. Shortly after the trotters turned into the backstretch, Obrigado cleared the lead and it was a lead he would not relinquish. MacDonald effectively backed his trotter down to a 55.3 half mile before reaching three-quarters in 1:25.1, completely a tepid 58.3 middle half-mile. In the stretch, the Boy Band gelding  simply out-sprinted the field, kicking home in 26.2 to complete the triumph. Flanagan Memory rallied to finish second with Melady's Monet overcoming traffic trouble in the stretch to finish third. Obrigado is co-owned by his trainer Paul Kelley, L. Higgins and W. Weaver III. The fifth race Jackpot Super Hi-5 survived another night, despite a 15-1 upset and that carryover will be $168,564 into the Saturday program. The last race carryover swelled to $149,836 as well. Racing resumes on Saturday with first post time at 7:15 P.M. Darin Zoccali

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ (June 24, 2015) - It is a long way from the harness racing fairs of Maine to the big leagues at the Meadowlands, but it is a trip that Obrigado is making. Now, his trainer Paul Kelley expects him to make noise against the sport's top trotters. Obrigado, a five-year-old gelding by leading Maine stallion Boy Band, faces five others in the $50,000 TVG Free For All on Friday (June 26) at the Meadowlands. "He is a tremendous looking individual," said trainer Paul Kelley. "He is everything you would want a trotter to look like. He gets over the ground really well and likes to race. He's just a class animal and is easy to manage around the barn." At two and three, Obrigado won 21 straight races in Maine when trained by Ivan Davies and owned by longtime top Maine breeder Mike Andrew. After earning more than $168,000 and back-to-back Maine-bred championships, Obrigado was entered in the 2013 Harrisburg Mixed Sale. Kelley jumped in to purchase Obrigado for $53,000. "Mike and I have been friends for a long time and he's a really sharp guy," said Kelley. "When I bought him, I thought he might develop into a nice open level trotter at Saratoga, but nobody thought we were buying this type of horse. He has been a very pleasant surprise." Kelley owns Obrigado with partners Linwood Higgins, Bill Weaver, and Stable 45. Last year, Obrigado finished first or second in 16 of 21 starts, all at the Open level at Saratoga, Tioga Downs, and Yonkers, while earning more than $173,000. By the end of the season, he had earned a spot in the prestigious International Trot Invitational at Yonkers and finished a fast-closing fourth behind Natural Herbie, Commander Crowe, and Bee A Magician. With that performance, Kelley was convinced he had a potentially top class horse. "As the competition got tougher, he kept showing up and showing that he fit with them," said Kelley. "The plan is to show up at these big races and if all goes well, which I think it will, then we'll keep competing at the top level." Obrigado made his first career start on a one-mile track last week at the Meadowlands. He finished second behind fellow TVG rival DW's NY Yank after being locked in on the pylons throughout the stretch. Mark MacDonald will take his usual seat behind Obrigado on Friday. Kelley credits Jenna Calagaris, Obrigado's groom, for constantly handling every little detail to keep the horse at peak performance and his second trainer and blacksmith, Kevin Constantine. Obrigado is the 2-1 morning line favorite in Friday's race. His rivals include Canadian invader Flanagan Memory, the former European star Mr. Picolit, who is making his North American debut for Ake Svanstedt, and locally-based contenders DW's NY Yank, Melady's Monet, and Master of Law. The TVG Free For All goes as race six on the twelve-race card that also includes carryovers of $165,662 and $144,277 in the Jackpot Super High 5 wagers in races five and twelve. Post time is 7:15 p.m. Meadowlands Pace Hashtag Unveiled The Meadowlands has unveiled the official hashtag for the track's signature race, the Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace. Fans can join the conversation and follow along on the road to the Pace by using #Pace15 on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Eliminations for the Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace are July 11 with the $750,000(est) Final set for July 18. Justin Horowitz

Louisville, KY --- He might not receive as much press as the sport’s top rated horse Bee A Magician or Elitloppet bound Wind Of The North, but Obrigado’s harness racing connections feel he possesses the ability and class to be one of the top older trotters of 2015. “He’s staked up to everything and is such an intelligent horse,” said Paul Kelley, who co-owns and conditions the 5-year-old gelding. “He never does anything wrong and is a cool horse to be around.” After an extended winter vacation, Obrigado will be making his third start of the season on Saturday (May 23) at Yonkers Raceway in a $42,000 Open Handicap. He will commence his journey from post position seven with Mark MacDonald at the lines in the fifth race on the card and is the 5-2 choice on the morning line. “He’s done very well at Yonkers and always gives a good account of himself,” Kelley said. “We are really looking forward to this season with him.” A Maine champion at age 2 and 3, Obrigado was bred by Mike Andrew of Gorham, Maine, and is a son of Boy Band and the Malabar Man mare Malimony. He is a full brother to Kanalla Bella 3,2:01h ($81,025), A Cappella Bella 3,2:01.4h ($85,060) and Iza Bella 4,1:58.3h ($232,295) and was purchased by Kelley, Linwood Higgins, Bill Weaver and Stable 45 at the 2013 Standardbred Mixed Sale for $53,000. The gelding is a very handsome horse and that is initially what caught Kelley’s eye. The fact that he reeled off 21 consecutive victories after finishing fourth and third in his first two starts certainly did not impair the acquisition either. Kelley always thought Obrigado would be a very nice addition to his barn, but was overjoyed by how well the gelding performed last year. He compiled a record of 21-9-7-1, set a track record of 1:52.3f at Tioga Downs and doubled his bankroll by earning $173,742. In his last race of 2014, the former Ivan Davies trainee illustrated he was a force to be reckoned with as he came home fourth behind Natural Herbie, Commander Crowe and Bee A Magician in the $250,000 International Trot Preview Invitational on Oct. 25 at Yonkers Raceway. “We were tickled to death to receive the last invitation and were anxious to see how he would perform against some of the top horses in the sport,” Kelley said. “He did much more than show he could hold his own and that race gave us notice that he belonged with those horses. Being from Maine, you never knew how he was going to measure up and when we bought him it was with the intention of having a nice horse for the upstate New York circuit. He is just so much more than that and everyone that comes in contact with him ends up becoming a fan. He is that kind of horse.” The gelding qualified twice this year on April 23 and April 30 before finishing second on May 9 in an Open Handicap at Yonkers. He was second again in the same class at the Hilltop on May 16. A triumph this weekend would bring his resume to an extremely consistent 47-31-9-2 and bring him closer to the $400,000 mark in career purse money (he is currently at $363,164). “We started off this year with some changes, as I am now stabled at Mark Ford’s training center,” Kelley said. “It is absolutely tremendous here and we made a great choice. Also, Mark MacDonald is at the barn every morning. He will be the one driving Obrigado now as he has done plenty of work with him and really likes the horse. I think he is an excellent fit and has definitely earned the drive by all the time he has spent with us. He also provides great feedback on how the horse is doing.” Although it is not yet June, Kelley is very excited to see exactly what Obrigado will accomplish. “Everyone always asks how he is doing and where he will be going,” Kelley said. “But we will just let him tell us how to proceed all year. It’s all up to him, but I have confidence in him. He could never let us down as he is so smart and gives more than 100 percent every time you lead him over. You never know what can happen from year to year, but we think he can improve upon last year and we hope to have a lot more fun with him this year.” by Kimberly French, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

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