Freehold, NJ — Freehold Raceway rang in the new year on Friday (Jan. 1), with a pair of Preferred Handicaps. One was won by an established veteran, the other by a possible rising star.
The $12,000 Preferred Handicap Trot went to Obrigado, who inched his earnings closer to the $2 million mark. Sent off as the 2-5 favorite in the field of seven, he was sent to the front early on from post position six by driver Dan Dube. He cleared to the front just after the quarter, and established firm control as they went by the half-mile point. After a solid opening quarter of :28.4 over the “good” track, he slowed it down to the half-mile, getting that fraction in :59.1.
As they neared three-quarters, although his rivals made solid moves, Obrigado began to pull away. He was in front by two lengths at the top of the stretch and coasted under the wire three lengths clear. The final time was 1:57.
Obrigado’s best year was 2016. That year, he won seven major stakes for older trotters, concluding his season with a win in the TVG Final at The Meadowlands. Last year, as a 10-year-old, he won seven times from 22 starts, while earning more than $85,000. He’s owned by Paul Kelley Racing Stable, S R F Stable, and Linwood Higgins, and trained by Paul Kelley.
Three races later, Alexa Skye sought a repeat win in the Fillies & Mares Preferred Handicap Pace. The week prior, she rallied from behind to win at 5-1 odds. Bettors thought she would do it again, sending her off as the 6-5 favorite.
As expected, Jack Pelling took her well off the pace, rating behind a quarter of :27.4 and a half-mile in :58. Nearing three-quarters, she remained in last and it looked as if she’d have to make another big comeback if she wanted her second win in a row.
Turning for home, her rivals were stacked across the track. Pelling had no choice but to send her six-wide on the final turn. Despite losing so much ground, she was able to sustain her strong rally and she surged to victory by a half-length, stopping the clock in 1:55.4.
Alexa Skye has now won four races in a row, and six of her last eight. It wouldn’t be surprising to see this newly-turned 4-year-old have a very successful campaign this year. She’s trained by Brett Pelling and owned by Blue Chip Bloodstock and John Lengacher.
Siegelman, Fusco clinch Freehold Summer/Fall meet titles
Over the past few months, Austin Siegelman has emerged as the top driver at Freehold Raceway. After finishing fifth in the standings in 2019, Siegelman looked to build on his performance in 2020.
During Freehold’s Summer/Fall meet, Siegelman took off. He won 72 races from 331 drives in that stretch, the most of any driver. Perhaps his best stretch came between Nov. 27 and Dec. 4, when he won 13 races over three race days. He won at least four races eight times during the summer/fall portion of the season.
Eric Abbatiello finished second in the race, with 45 wins. Jim Marohn Jr. was third with 43 wins, followed by Vinny Ginsburg in fourth, with 37 victories.
In the training department, Paul Fusco led the way among trainers during the meet. He won 18 races from 131 starters. Brandon Mongiello was second with 16 victories, Bill MacKenzie was third with 15 triumphs.
Live racing continues at Freehold on Saturday (Jan. 2), with a 13-race card starting at 12:30 p.m.