06/24/2016 9:48AM

Meadowlands: Matured Obrigado seeks Cutler victory

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Obrigado is just a check away from reaching $1 million in career earnings.

Driver Mark MacDonald doesn’t leave Yonkers very often. The Canadian transplant won six of the 11 races at Yonkers this past Saturday night and is in high demand. On Friday night his services will be required out of town as Obrigado seeks his third straight major stakes triumph in the $200,000 Arthur J. Cutler Memorial at The Meadowlands.

“He’s been extremely good over the last few races,” MacDonald said after completing a Tuesday afternoon card at Yonkers.

“After his winter in Florida I don’t think he was race ready in his first few starts,” said MacDonald, looking back primarily at the Mack Lobell Elitlopp at The Meadowlands on May 8. In that race Obrigado finished well behind race winner Resolve but improved his placement after Resolve was disqualified.

The two have not met since, but MacDonald thinks perhaps they will be much closer on the wire this Friday.

“Obrigado has matured a lot this year,” said MacDonald. “He always battles when trying to pass horses or holding other horses at bay.”

As for Resolve, the driver hopes his recent exploits may leave him less than at the top of his game.

“Resolve raced in Europe and sometimes the travel can take something out of these horses. But Ake (trainer Svandstedt) does a great job and usually has his horses ready for big races,” said MacDonald.

Obrigado landed post four in the select field of seven. The aged trotting ranks has thinned out somewhat this year, but this field of seven includes some high powered performers including last year’s top aged trotter JL Cruze as well as the $1 million winning 3-year-old from 2015, Crazy Wow.

MacDonald though is probably more focused on the trip as opposed to the competition when it comes to Obrigado. While the horse has done most of his best work over the smaller sized ovals, MacDonald has helped him acclimate to the big track while mindful of where to place his horse.

“He’s not at his best on the front end,” said MacDonald. “He did win at The Meadowlands last year on the front so he can do it.”

The driver has guided Obrigado to victories in the Charlie Hill Memorial and Maxie Lee in consecutive starts but in neither case was he drawing away from the competition. A pocket-trip in the Hill saw him take the lead in mid-stretch but appear to wait on other horses. So too was the trip in the Lee, where JL Cruze made a break opening the door for Obrigado, but once in front the 6-year-old waited until Il Sogno Dream was in his sights to finish off the mile.

“When he sees another horse he’ll fight back,” said MacDonald.

Though Resolve landed post seven in the Cutler, he is clearly the one to beat. The 5-year-old son of Muscle Hill went two brilliant miles in the Elitlopp and lost to two champions in successive heats, with Timoko scoring in the elimination and Nuncio getting the job done in the final. Still, Resolve appears to be even better now than he was at the tail end of last year when he captured the TVG Final at The Meadowlands by three lengths over Obrigado.

Trainer Ron Burke sends out Crazy Wow (post 1) and Gural Hanover (post 2) in the Cutler. The former has broken stride in two of his three starts this year. The latter has also been plagued by a breaking problem.

JL Cruze, a 16-race winner in 2015, has been hit or miss this year, with four wins in seven tries. He too has had trouble finishing out his races, failing while on the lead in both the Mack Lobell and the Maxie Lee. John Campbell will guide JL Cruze from post 3.

Flanagan Memory scored a major upset in last year’s Cashman at The Meadowlands on Hambo Day. The son of Kadabra appears to be rounding into form and is certainly a viable threat in the field. Flanagan Memory drew post five for trainer Rene Dion.

Wind Of The North completes the Cutler field from post six.

The Cutler is listed as race seven on the Friday night Meadowlands program with a first post at 7:15 p.m.