Giving thanks for Obrigado

Paul Kelley’s gelded trotter Obrigado — named after the Portuguese word for thank you — pushed his career earnings to the brink of $1 million with a win Saturday in the $210,000 Charlie Hill Memorial at Scioto Downs.

by Dave Briggs

A few minutes after Obrigado won his second straight $200,000 race to push his career earnings to the cusp of $1 million, his trainer and part-owner Paul Kelley was giving thanks and deferring credit for the six-year-old gelded trotter’s success to his team in the barn.

“I think a big part of it is my second trainer, his name is Kevin Constantine. He’s also my blacksmith. Kevin and his girlfriend Jenna, literally, live with this horse day to day. They just do a fantastic job,” Kelley said after Obrigado won Saturday’s $210,000 Charlie Hill Memorial at Scioto Downs in Columbus, OH. “I think a lot of it certainly is Jenna’s work and Kevin’s work with the shoeing. I think it’s all of us putting our heads together and sorting it out. Some of the things that maybe kept us from doing a little better last year.

“This is our third year or racing him now and I think like everything else there’s just been a little bit of a learning curve. Last year, he would get a little steppy. He’d never make a break, but he’d get a little funky at times. We needed to sort things out a little bit as to what was going on.”

On May 29, Obrigado and driver Mark MacDonald edged Il Songo Dream by a neck in 1:52 in the $200,000 Maxie Lee Memorial Invitational at Harrah’s Philadelphia.

Last night at Scioto, MacDonald orchestrated a beautiful trip and then held off a charging Natural Herbie by a head in 1:53.3.

“I was really expecting Natural Herbie to start to go away a little bit coming off the last turn, but he really didn’t. His last sixteenth of a mile he was just vicious,” Kelley said. “We were fortunate we had room up the inside. My horse likes to pass horses and he saw Herbie coming on the very outside towards the end and was able to keep going and hold him off. Mark (MacDonald) gets along with this horse so well and the horse is just a very versatile type of horse. He gave him a fantastic trip… Mark did just a tremendous job putting our horse into play early and things just worked out great.”

Kelley, who lives in Gansevoort, NY, shares ownership of the son of Boy Band out of Malimony with SRF Stable of Delray Beach, FL, Linwood Higgins of Scarborough, ME and Stable 45 of Boynton Beach, FL. Obrigado sports a record of 3-1-1 in five starts this year, and earnings of $248,530. The gelding was 4-6-3 in 18 starts in 2015 for earnings of $405,535.

“He’s just a really nice horse. You never have to worry about him throwing in a clunker. He’ll take any kind of trip you throw at him and he just has a real will to want to win and pass horses. We’re just thrilled with the way things are going and we’ll go to the Cutler next (June 24 at the Meadowlands) and then, hopefully, come back out (to Ohio) to Northfield for the Cleveland Classic (July 2). He finished second last year in it. I want that one back.”

More important than that, Kelley said he’s looking toward the early fall for one special race.

“I’m hoping we can manage the horse right and get him through the year nice and healthy because I’d love to get invited to that International Trot at Yonkers. The mile-and-a-quarter race is right up his alley. I would just love to take a crack at that. We’ll see. I hope it works out,” he said.