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Obrigado scores in $210,000 Charlie Hill Memorial
Saturday, June 11, 2016 - by Kim French, USTA Internet News Editor

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Columbus, OH --- On a steamy Saturday (June 11) evening at Scioto Downs, Obrigado fended off the late charge of track record holder and world champion Natural Herbie to claim the trophy for the $210,000 Charlie Hill Memorial Trot. The 6-year-old gelding, piloted by regular reinsman Mark MacDonald, was the beneficiary of a perfect pocket trip, which the duo parlayed into a powerful 1:53.3 score.

“He is just such a great horse,” said MacDonald. “You can do anything you want with him and all he wants to do is win. For some reason, I’m not sure why, we just get along. Tonight you could not have asked for a better position and then he did all the rest.”

USTA/Mark Hall photo
Obrigado was a 1:53.3 winner in the Charlie Hill Memorial.

Leaving from post six, the gelded son of Boy Band and the Malabar Man mare Malimony, settled into second behind the leader and recent world champion Muscle Up The Goal. Content to allow the hometown favorite and the public’s selection at 4-5 to set the pace, Obrigado simply followed that rival around the Columbus oval behind fractions of :27.1, 57.3 and 1:25.3 before he was pulled out of the pocket at the top of the stretch to commence his drive to the wire with a :27.4 final panel.

Obrigado glided by Muscle Up The Goal and completed his victorious journey to the wire seemingly well in hand. Natural Herbie placed pressure on the property of conditioner Paul Kelley, SRF Stable, Linwood Higgins, and Stable 45, however, his first over bid rendered him unable to match strides with the victor. Flanagan Memory, the 2013 O’Brien Award winner, closed from eighth to nab the show spot.

Sent off at odds of 3-1, Obrigado paid his supporters $8.20. Natural Herbie, dismissed at 22-1, provided $14.40 to place and Flanagan Memory at 9-1 offered $7.40 to show. The exacta was $68 and the trifecta a generous $475.80.

“I could not have asked for a trip around this track that was any better,” MacDonald said. “It was like a dream and honestly, I was shocked it worked out that well for us. I knew Natural Herbie was coming down on us and I respect him because he is such a nice horse, but my horse had the advantage off how this race set up. This was a very strong group of horses and it is a great win for us.”

A Maine champion as a freshman and sophomore, Obrigado is the pride of Kelley’s stable and rightfully so, as the horse has now banked enough from his career record of 67-37-14-6, including this evening’s purse, to be roughly $4,000 shy of millionaire status.

Purchased by Kelley, who was drawn to what an exemplary physical specimen he is, for $53,000 at the 2013 Standardbred Mixed Sale, Obrigado has been a winning machine before and after leaving the confines of his home state. Although Kelley shied away from top competition at age four, he placed the horse with the elite of his division last year as a 5-year-old and he has excelled.

In 2015 he earned $405,535 with a record of 4-6-3 from 18 trips to the gate and knocked heads with all the best trotters currently competing in the sport. This year Obrigado has trotted five miles with three victories, one second and one third. Despite it being only June, the gelding has already collected just under $250,000 in purse money.

The win in this Grand Circuit event is the second consecutive triumph for Obrigado in 2016 and comes immediately subsequent to his huge victory in the $200,000 Maxie Lee Memorial at Harrah’s Philadelphia on May 29.

“I think he is even better than last year,” MacDonald said. “It is like he is in a zone and in peak form. It was not like he was bad by any means last year. He is a very smart horse that does nothing wrong and I think this season is going to be very fun with him and might be his best yet.

Paul (Kelley) wanted me to drive him as a 4-year-old, but circumstances did not work out to enable me to. Paul protected him and kept him up at Saratoga that year so he did not have to face many of the best trotters. I think that strategy is working out now, as he is so sharp and I know I can count on him for many more appearances in big races this season. Paul has really done a tremendous job with this horse and the horse himself just has all the tools. There is no denying he is right there with the best racing right now and he continues to make me very happy.”


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