Day At The Track

Obrigado prepares for 2018 debut

05:26 AM 12 Jan 2018 NZDT
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Obrigado enters the 2018 season with $1.73 million in lifetime earnings.
Vicki Wright Photography

Columbus, OH --- While his harness racing rivals continued their journey through 2017, there was a name that was conspicuously missing from the programs of the sport’s marquee older trotting events as the march to divisional honors transpired. That horse, the 2016 Dan Patch Award winner, is none other than Obrigado and if all goes according to plan, the 8-year-old world champion will return to work next week to resume his quest for another title.

“After his last start (a ninth place finish in the $303,050 Cashman Memorial on Aug. 5) we just knew he was not himself,” said co-owner and conditioner Paul Kelley. “That is why we started a little later with him last year because we knew something was bothering him; we just couldn’t figure out what it was. Finally Dr. Stewart pinpointed that it was something in his right stifle, so we took him to Cornell where he had arthroscopic surgery in November. Dr. Nixon went in and just cleaned it up for him. Everything looks great and we hope to start jogging him the third week in January down here in Florida.”

Also owned by SRF Stable, Linwood Higgins and Stable 45, Obrigado is also a two-time Maine champion and burst onto the national scene in 2014 after winning 21 consecutive contests in his home state. Kelley and his partners purchased him for $53,000 at the 2013 Standardbred Mixed Sale and since then the gelding has collected more than $1.5 million for his connections.

A model of consistency, Obrigado has earned $405,535, $873,300 and $109,265 in his last three seasonal campaigns. Although he did bank more than $100,000 last year, that obviously was unusual from one of the best older trotters on the planet. Even at less than his best he still managed to accrue that amount from a record of 6-0-2-2.

“We just could not find out what was wrong with him,” Kelley said. “We took him all over to have him looked at. Even when he had a bone scan nothing came up that was not normal. I’m just so grateful to Dr. Stewart and Dr. Nixon for finding the problem; they deserve all the credit.”

Since his time on the surgical table, Obrigado has been engaged in light exercise in preparation for his return.

“He’s just been doing some groundwork after he had some rest,” Kelley said. “He looks great and his recovery seems to be coming along perfectly. Of course it always helps he is such a good patient. I would expect he is ready to begin doing just a little more though as he does really enjoy racing.”

With the advances in veterinary medicine, removing bone chips, draining fluid or simply “cleaning up” a joint or two is now quite standard and the prognosis for a full recovery from most horses is excellent. Therefore, there is no reason to not expect Obrigado to return to his exceptional self this season.

“We will start jogging him in January but he will not race again until very late spring or early summer,” Kelley said. “It is such a long season with so many good races late in the summer and fall that you really just want to have him ready for those. It’s a lot of travel and with so much racing it can be hard on them. We just want to do what’s best for the horse and he pretty much tells us what to do for him.

“Of course we were disappointed with what happened last year, but most of that came from him not being himself, so we knew our job was to find out what was bugging him. Hopefully we will pick up right where he left off and have another great season this year. In this business you never know anything and have to see what happens. We are, however, very excited to have repaired the issue and have him back.

“We are also really looking forward to this year with him. He really is such a great horse to simply be around and watching him race has brought us so much joy. We hope it is more of the same this year.”

by Kim French, USTA Internet News Editor 


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