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Where Is Obrigado?

Published: November 25, 2017 5:05 pm ET

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Maine-bred trotting star Obrigado has been absent from the races since finishing ninth in the $303,050 John Cashman Jr. Memorial on August 5 at the Meadowlands, but is plotted to return for his eight-year-old campaign in 2018 after recovering from surgery.

"We had some issues through the winter and coming out of the spring, and that's why we pushed [his schedule] back a bit and didn't show up for the Cutler at The Meadowlands,” Kelley said. “I tried to give the horse a little bit of extra time and things kind of came around and were headed in the right direction but then after a few -- four or five -- hard races we started to go off the rails a little bit and that's when I knew we had to kind of reel him in, hold back and try to sort things out."

Sidelined for the last four months, Obrigado, a stallion by Boy Band from the Malabar Man mare Malimony, has remained in training while under a routine of radiographs and ultrasounds in order to figure out what were his problems.

“My vet, Dr. Stewart, had done some further examinations on him,” trainer Paul Kelley said, “and some normal joint blocks and whatnot, and we were all in agreement that the horse blocked sound in the right stifle – there are three joints in the stifle, and he blocked all three. When he did that, [Obrigado] showed a mark of improvement in his gait.

“At that point, we took some radiographs, and sent those radiographs up to Cornell. Dr. Nixon looked at the radiographs, and thought that the radiographs themselves looked normal, but, Nixon, being really a stifle specialist – that’s what I think he prides himself the most on – wanted to see the horse and ultrasound the horse.”

Obrigado shipped to Cornell University Veterinary Hospital, undergoing more ultrasounds on Monday, November 20. Noticing issues with the horse’s cartilage and joints, Dr. Nixon wanted to perform arthroscopic surgery and clean the joints.

“It really was like a human athlete going in and having his knee scoped and cleaned out a bit – that was pretty much it,” Kelley said. “The stifle is extremely similar to the human knee; it’s almost the same joint. What was done yesterday is probably done to dozens of human athletes on a daily basis. We’re lucky places like Cornell, Penn, Guelph, have the capabilities of performing very intricate types of surgeries that are not invasive to the horse.”

With no complications both in and exiting surgery, Obrigado is planned to spend the winter in Florida, where he will recuperate for 30 days before beginning to wean back into his regular training schedule.

“Nixon wants him for four weeks doing as little as possible, but after 30 days, we can start to increase the exercise,” Kelley said. “Nixon was agreeable about the horse going back to the paddock after 30 days. We aren’t too far down the road from going back to some light exercise, even if it’s something like hooking him up to a jog cart and walking him around.”

A winner of 42 races in 85 starts, Obrigado, owned by Michael Andrew, has earned $1,733,096 in his career, with $109,265 coming from his six starts this season, which followed a 2015 campaign including wins in the Dayton Trotting Derby, Crawford Farms Trot, John Cashman Jr. Memorial, Cleveland Classic, Charlie Hill Memorial, Maxie Lee Memorial, and the TVG Open Trot Championship, amassing $873,300 through the season.

"The horse has an incredible appetite for competition, going out and doing his daily jogging and training,” Kelley said. “He's mentally sharp and I just couldn't be happier with the horse on so many levels outside of the fact that I know he's just not 100 percent. He needs to improve a little bit more and then I think we're good to go."

On Saturday, November 25, six horses will line up for the $350,000 TVG Open Trot, with Crazy Wow the 9-5 morning-line favourite and What The Hill, the sophomore challenger, the second choice at 2-1.

“There’s a bunch of good horses racing in that TVG final this weekend – I wish them all the luck in the world,” Kelley said. “We all know how hard it is to show up every week and be on your A-game all the time, so it’s a tribute to those guys who got through the season and got through another season and doing it again. We look forward to 2018 and taking on whatever there is next year.

“No disrespect to the older trotting class this year, but I sure wish he could have been at 90 or 95 percent and shown up for some of those events. But hopefully we'll be there and back to our old self. I’m obviously really excited – I think the horse still has a lot of racing left in him. Mentally, he’s the same horse he’s been the last three, four, five years, and you can tell he wants to compete. He’s going to get that chance again.”

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