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Kelley hopes for big things with Obrigado
Thursday, December 05, 2013 - by Kimberly French, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

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Kimberly French
Louisville, KY --- He came to Harrisburg to sell some horses and really had no intention of purchasing any stock but when Paul Kelley saw Obrigado in the ring he relinquished the taut hold he had instituted on his purse strings.

“The truth of the matter is we came up there with a bunch of yearlings and were selling some other horses,” he said. “I didn’t anticipate or plan to shop for a racehorse but I happened to see this horse out on the floor and I saw who he was. He is a really good looking horse. If someone told me he was by Muscles Yankee or Donato Hanover I would believe it.

Then I realized the horse came from Maine and although it’s been years since I raced up there, I know all the fair tracks and I’m friends with Mike Andrew and I bought a horse called Up Tempo from him about two years ago by the same sire that was also a Maine champion as a 2- and 3-year-old. I can look at those miles and kind of get a sense whether it was a great one or so-so.”

Derek Davis photo
Obrigado has won 21 straight races and banked $168,422 lifetime.

That was not Kelley’s only inspiration for purchasing the son of Boy Band and the Malabar Man mare Malimony. It’s extremely difficult to dismiss a colt that’s won 21 straight races and netted $168,422 while competing solely over the Maine fair tracks and at Scarborough Downs.

I watched him go through the ring and when the bidding stalled at $50,000 I jumped in, but I probably wouldn’t have spent much more,” Kelley said. “He was a good buy at that price ($53,000) so I took a whack and it didn’t take much for people to get interested in taking shares of him.”

Bred by the aforementioned Andrew by the stallion he owns and conditioned by Ivan Davies, all Obrigado did was win. The dual Maine champion was 10-8-0-1 with a bank account of $67,937 last year and 13-13-0-0 this year with purse money of $100,485.

The last time this horse didn’t have his picture taken was on June 28, 2012 when he finished third in his second start in an $11,839 Maine Breeders Stake.

“I think he would have won every race except his first start (the first time he performed on a pari-mutuel track was in a $200 2-year-old race on June 14, 2012 at Scarborough) but he was interfered with a couple of times,” said Davies, who guided him in the contest. “He was still good enough to be third.”

Obrigado is a full brother to Kanalla Bella 3,2:01h ($81,025), A Cappella Bella 3,2:01.4h ($85,060) and Ella Bella 4,2:01.2h ($194,858). Davies, who has a long history of developing very nice trotters, has played a role in the career of all these horses.

“We knew right away he was talented,” he said. “He was the best of all that bunch because he was the smartest. They were all great horses but if something went wrong they didn’t overcome it. He was so fast but a little bit goofy, but we were able to channel that into racing.

He just needed to grow up and we were able to put an open bridle on him and that’s when he became aware of other horses. He could see the difference and watch other horses. He always knew how to win. He is very intelligent and he was always automatic to drive.”

Boy Band was not prolific on the racetrack but is an outstanding sire in Maine, although he is not mounting anywhere near a full book. He has covered 158 mares since 2004 and his progeny have earned more than $2.4 million.

“A lot of those Boy Bands are a little high strung and I’ve had a few of them,” Kelley said. “According to Ivan this guy isn’t like that at all. He’s a little more grounded, sensible and relaxed. Just the fact that he did what he did and dominated without wearing hobbles while trotting on those tracks so easily showed me he has a good head on his shoulders.

Ivan Davies is a very good trainer and I’m friends with Mike Andrew. I know when his 2- and 3-year-olds are done with the Maine program he sells them no matter if they are a colt or a filly. He buys a lot of yearlings and spends a lot of money in this game outside of Maine. His and Ivan’s integrity is important to me.”

Currently Obrigado is in Florida at Rod Allen’s farm getting a bit of rest before he commences with his 4-year-old season. Kelley will bring him to Sunshine Meadows and probably get a qualifier in him in March and then see what the colt is made of.

“I bought Up Tempo (Boy Band, 1:55.1s, $279,811) from Mike and Obrigado is kind of the same scenario,” Kelley said. “When I talked to Mike and Ivan I knew this horse had ability. With a little bit of luck he might be able to step up on the New York circuit at Saratoga and Yonkers. Up Tempo did and took his record (in 2011 at Vernon). If memory serves me right he made $100,000 at four and is still racing.

The biggest drawback with this horse is with all those wins where the heck are you going to race him? I’m going to race him at Pompano for a bit because even if he has to go in the Opens I’m hoping for short fields and if we manage him right by not taking on the heavyweights at the Meadowlands and Yonkers, I think he will be a very nice horse. Eventually some money will come off his card. Then we will start him at Saratoga and see how he fares.

But I have been wrong a 100 times more than I have been right so we will see.”

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