07/01/2015 11:17AM

Northfield: Obrigado in great shape for Trotting Classic

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Fred Brown
Obrigado is coming off a 1:51 3/5 win at the Meadowlands.

There are horses for courses and horses that can get around courses. Obrigado, the likely favorite for Friday’s $170,000 Cleveland Trotting Classic at Northfield Park, was literally born to race over the half-mile track. Raced exclusively at two and three in Maine over the four-turn ovals Obrigado was a terror. Last year trainer Paul Kelley did his best to keep Obrigado where he liked to be.

“Before he raced twice at Tioga last year he had never been off the half,” said Kelley.

This year as a 5-year-old Kelley had Obrigado step up to the big track, the miler at the Meadowlands, and the horse was more than up to the task.

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“Timmy (Tetrick) drove him just how I wanted him to in that first race,” said Kelley about the second-place finish behind DW’s NY Yank, a horse he’ll face on Friday night.

“I didn’t tell Mark what to do,” said Kelley in regard to Obrigado’s first ever victory over a mile track, a career best 1:51 3/5 clocking in a leg of the TVG at the Meadowlands this past Friday. “He’s raced on the front and he tends to relax and wait on other horses,” said Kelley. In the TVG leg Obrigado secured the front and then sprinted off with a 26 2/5 final quarter.

Mark MacDonald will escort Obrigado from post two in Northfield’s 11th of 15 races on Friday night.

“He’s coming into the race in great shape,” said Kelley. “He’s a bit bigger and stronger than he was at four. I was very happy with the way he ended his season last year.”

Obrigado’s experience aside, the Cleveland Trotting Classic has some major players including the aforementioned DW’s NY Yank, also a horse that is quite comfortable on the smaller sized tracks. Chris Page gets the catch-drive for trainer Ron Burke behind a horse that has always shown early speed and is likely to be pointed to the front on Friday. With five wins in 13 starts this year, DW’s NY Yank has already earned $176,836 this season, far more than any of the seven he’ll face on Friday.

The classy Daylon Magician has won five of eight this year for trainer-driver Jack Moiseyev. The Ontario-bred crosses the border for the Cleveland Trotting Classic as the richest horse in the field with nearly $1.85 million in career earnings. Daylon Magician drew post seven.

Second in last year’s Yonkers Trot, Datsyuk has thus far found the competition pretty steep as a 4-year-old for trainer-driver Charlie Norris. He returns to the half-mile track from post five.

Trainer Ron Burke has two in the field with Count Me In landing post one for driver Aaron Merriman. Count Me In should like the change in scenery to Northfield as well as the inside position having been victimized by poor draws in his most recent starts.

Win, lose or draw, trainer Kelley is hoping to keep Obrigado in good shape throughout the season and would love the opportunity to return to the International Trot at Yonkers in the fall.

“It was an honor to race in it last year. I’m sure the field will be much stronger this year and I’m hoping he’s in great shape when invitations are given out,” said Kelley.

A major half-mile track victory in the Cleveland Trotting Classic always looks good on the resume.