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From Maine To The Meadowlands

Published: June 24, 2015 4:15 pm ET

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“As the competition got tougher, he kept showing up and showing that he fit with them. 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.”

It is a long way from the 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.

Obrigado made his first career start on a one-mile track last week at the Meadowlands. He finished second behind fellow TVG rival DWs 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 favourite 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 Åke Svanstedt, and locally-based contenders DWs NY Yank, Meladys 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.


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