Posts Tagged ‘George Nap’

Opening Night Saturday at the Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono

Friday, March 18th, 2016

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono opens its 51st season of harness racing on Saturday night, March 19th, with a $15,500 trotting feature and a trio of $14,000 co-features, two on the pace and one on the trot. The card starts off strongly, with the nightly feature slotted for race 2 on the 14-race card, and one of the co-features hitting leadoff for the mountain action, which has a first post at 6:30 p.m.

In the second race conditioned trot, the Holiday Road gelding Its Huw You Know has been accorded 3-1 morning line favoritism by oddsmaker Jim Beviglia despite form that would try the patience of a mother. The Ron Burke-trained gelding has won twice in his last four starts, including a 1:54.2 triumph in his last outing at The Meadowlands, but he has been known to throw the occasional tantrum in a race. His backers will hope for the “good” Its Huw You Know to show up as he starts from post six in a field of eight for driver Jim Morrill Jr., who comes to Pocono red-hot from Buffalo Raceway, sporting an incredible .624 early-season UDR.

In the curtainraiser, a handicapped event for high-level claiming pacers, Cotton Eyed Joe has been tabbed a 3-1 choice despite not having started since the end of the last Pocono meet, on November 21, though he had a good qualifying prep. “Joe” will start from post three in a group of eight, and will be driven by George Napolitano Jr., the track’s all-time leading single-season dashwinning champion with nine, including a record 407 visits to Victory Lane last year.

The other pacing co-feature, race 10, finds Ultimate Beachboy starting from the rail, inside seven foes, as he comes in from Toronto for trainer Rene Allard, who topped the conditioning tables at Pocono last season. Rene’s brother Simon, second to “George Nap” in the driving standings here last year, will guide the “Beachboy,” a $72,000 purchase at The Meadowlands’ January sale, who returns to the track where he took his personal record of 1:48.3, which at the time equaled the world record for three-year-old pacing geldings over a 5/8-mile track.

The co-featured trot, race 6, affords 5-2 favoritism to the $770,000+-winner Zooming, who drops in class after battling Open competition at Yonkers and Saratoga. George Napolitano Jr. has been picked to guide Zooming as the pair starts from post seven in a field of nine.

Pocono opens its season racing on Saturdays and Tuesdays in March; it will add Sundays (with a new 7:30 post time as opposed to the “usual” 6:30 start) on April 3 and Mondays on April 11. That Saturday through Tuesday schedule will be the basic format at The Downs through the spring and summer, with special event days accompanying the three races of the Thoroughbred Triple Crown.

2015 – The 50th Anniversary Season in Review

Friday, November 20th, 2015

2015 Season Review

Here we are at the conclusion of the 2015 racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. It’s been an extremely special season on a lot of levels, one that I’ve been thrilled to witness. I must admit that it feels a bit odd to be looking back, because, when you’re in the thick of an action-packed campaign like this one, it feels like it whooshes by before you know it.

The fact that this was the 50th racing season at Pocono lent everything an extra bit of specialness all year long. Each night of racing, the lights above the track lent their illumination, but they had a little help from the intangible glow cast upon the participants by the anniversary proceedings.

It even seemed like the weather cooperated for us this year more than I can ever remember. In one stretch, we went more than a month without seeing an off-track, and we even had unseasonably pleasant weather well into the month of November. As a result, it seemed like the crowds out on the patio and the apron were bigger than they’ve been in years.

What those patrons saw in 2015 was yet another season in which the racing product at Pocono was as fast and fantastic as anywhere else in the country. One peek at the track records page will show you just how dynamic the action was this past campaign. Five Pocono records were either set or matched in 2015, and four of those five also constituted world records.

Then again, electric talent tends to beget outstanding performances, so the assault on the record book was somewhat predictable in light of the caliber of horses that performed here throughout the season. We honored our horses of the year in this space last week, focusing mostly on those who were regulars or semi-regulars at Pocono this season. When you also consider some of the superstars of the sport who performed at Pocono in stakes races in 2015, horses like Wiggle It Jiggleit, Pinkman, and JL Cruze to name but a few, you get a true sense of the breadth of equine talent on display this past season.

Of course, those horses wouldn’t have been quite as special without the guidance and expertise of our drivers and trainers. We’ve talked in this column about the outstanding balance in the driving and training community this season, but a few men rose to the top of their respective fields.

On the driving side, it was a monster season for George Napolitano Jr., who easily won both the driving wins and driving percentage titles. George Nap broke his own single-season record for wins at Pocono and, at press time, was threatening the 400-win barrier on the season. Add to that the fact that he’s also leading the continent in wins for the season. What a year it’s been for Pocono’s most lauded driver.

Rene Allard once again dominated the training wins race, picking up his third straight title in that category. Allard had nearly twice as many victories as his nearest competitor, and at press time was on pace to put up the third most training wins in a season in Pocono history. Meanwhile Chris Oakes repeated as the top gun in the training percentage category, which means that nobody is more efficient at producing winners and in-the-money finishes than the Oakes barn.

I really don’t have enough space to list all of the drivers and trainers who gave outstanding efforts at the Pocono oval this past season. Nor can I recap all of the thrilling races and sizzling times and crazy long shots that characterized this past meet. (Although in that latter category, I do want to mention the performance this past Tuesday night of Lady Of The Lake, a mare who picked up her maiden victory for driver/trainer Joe Antonelli and paid off a stunning $398.60 on a $2 win ticket. That makes her Long Shot of the Year.)

And so it’s time to bid farewell to this racing season, one that fulfilled every one of the lofty expectations we placed on it based on it being such a momentous anniversary. I wrote extensively about the ramifications of the 50th anniversary throughout the season, but I’d like to mention once again how honored I am to have been a small part of it.

I feel like this was a special year for the Pocono patrons as well, many of whom followed us when the purses were miniscule compared to today and a mile under two minutes was a rare occurrence. This 50th year really belonged to you folks, so I hope you cherished it.

Before you know it we’ll be doing it all again though. So I’d like to wish everyone a great offseason and Happy Holidays. Stay warm. And then, come springtime, we’ll rev it up for season 51 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.

That will do it for this season, but we’ll see you at the track in 2016. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com.

George Napolitano Jr. breaks his own record

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

The red-hot George Napolitano Jr. broke his own record for most driving victories in one season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono when he guided Monopoly Blue Chip to victory in the 13th race of the Tuesday night program, his seventh win of the night and more importantly his 348th of the racing season at The Downs, eclipsing his old standard set in 2004.

Napolitano started the night with 341 Pocono wins, and dashed home first in the fourth race, then as good as put his head down and said, “Let’s get this over with” and proceeded to win the 7th, 8th, 9th, 11th, and 12th races before setting the record in race 13. And would there be a better-named horse, given his domination of the winners circle earlier, to break the record than Monopoly Blue Chip?

Napolitano will soon be able to post a “magic number” on how many wins he needs to mathematically lock up the title for the Pocono meet, which has 14 cards to go, as at press time he has a 348-210 victory edge over second-place Simon Allard (who got the winner in race 10, between GNap’s consecutive triples). The win crown will be “George Nap”‘s fourth straught at Pocono and ninth all-time, the latter number giving him the all-time outright lead in driving win titles locally, as he and Bill Lambertus both won eight dashwinning crowns prior to this season.

Having posted a possibly-unprecedented 366 wins since July 1, Napolitano has thrust himself in contention for the North American win crown, a title he took in 2010. Aaron Merriman and two-time dash defending champion Ron Wrenn Jr., both based at Northfield presently, had been running 1-2 throughout the season before George came into contention, and a check of the Northfield results for Tuesday at press time had these seasonal totals: Merriman 680, Napolitano 675, Wrenn 654.

One final note: regular Pocono announcer Jim Beviglia, who has called the vast majority of George Nap’s victories here this year, was not available on Tuesday and thus did not call the record win, but he may take some consolation from the person who did: Mike Bozich, announcer at Harrah’s Philadelphia and mikeman for the vast majority of Napolitano’s 301 wins there this season.

Oakes & Napolitano team sweep Saturday features

Monday, October 12th, 2015

Driver George Napolitano Jr. and trainer Chris Oakes combined for a sweep of the pacing features Saturday night, October 1oth,  at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with Scott Rocks a pocket rocket in taking the $26,000 pace in 1:50.1 and Luck Be Withyou controlling the pace to report home first in 1:49.1 in a $24,000 event.

Napolitano left hard with Scott Rocks, an altered son of Rocknroll Hanover, forcing a pocket tuck from Lonewolf Currier, then surrendering the front to the brushing Bushwacker past the 27.1 opener. Bushwacker continued on the engine with middle fractions of 54.4 and 1:22.4, and held gamely through the drive, but “George Nap” guided Scott Rocks to the famed “Pocono Pike” passing lane, and wore down the frontstepper by midstretch, posting a neck triumph for the ownership of Susan Oakes and Chuck Pompey; Major Uptrend charged hard late to be a close third.

Luck Be Withyou continued to show his affinity for the Pocono red clay surface, having won the 2013 Breeders Crown two-year-old colt pace and the 2015 Ben Franklin Final against top-level competition. The son of Western Ideal then had a dull patch of form, enabling him to drop down in class, and Saturday he took his third straight win on the comeback trail, moving to the front after Somethinginthewind blew to the quarter in 26, putting up 54.1 and 1:21.4 middle splits, and staying strong with a 27.2 last quarter, winning by 2 1/2 lengths for owner John Craig.

In a $24,000 trot, Ray Hall, who ascended to the top levels during the Weiss Series in the spring of 2014, showed that he might prove a worthy rival to his 2015 “successor,” JL Cruze, ringing up his second win in three starts since being acquired by Team Allard (driver Simon and trainer/brother Rene, also co-owner with Giselle Hebert). The Justice Hall gelding stayed off a wild early duel (25.4, 53.4) between Somebody As and Modest Prince, moved up to a great second-over spot by the 1:23 3/4 marker, then easily outtrotted his rivals home, tallying by 1 1/2 lengths over deep Pikeshooter Doc’s Tebow in 1:52.4.

Pocono now shifts to a 3-night-a-week live schedule, with the trotters and pacers under the lights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays until the meet’s end on November 21.

George Napolitano Jr. chalks up second month of 100 wins

Monday, August 31st, 2015

How do you follow-up on a month when you win 100 races?

Well, if you’re George Napolitano Jr., you go out the next month and win 105.

Having won 100 races in the month of July while racing exclusively at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono and Harrah’s Philadelphia, the leading driver at both tracks went out and even topped his previous month by winning 105 races in August, capped by seven winners on the month’s “closing day” (both tracks are closed Monday.)

The actual “consecutive double century” milestone came at Harrah’s on Sunday afternoon when “George Nap” won the sixth race with Reggiano. Appropriately, the winner came from the barn of Gil Garcia-Herrera, Philly’s leading trainer and a regular customer for Napolitano’s services. (#99, Lispatty, also came from under Gil’s shedrow.)

The Reggiano victory was the middle of three on the afternoon for George; he then went to Pocono and added four more, including another for Garcia-Herrera. For the month, Napolitano won 50 times at Chester and 55 at Pocono.

Napolitano, 49, didn’t start driving until the relatively-advanced age of 26, but he has certainly made up for lost time, with 7167 career victories. His victory with the sophomore trotting filly Sistas, against males and older horses, on Saturday assured him of his sixth straight year with 500 or more wins, starting in 2010 when he won the North American title with 748 visits to Victory Lane.

Napolitano has a huge lead in the current Pocono stands, and should he remain atop the Pocono pack until season’s end, he will earn his ninth dashwinning title at the northeast Pennsylvania mountain oval — breaking his current share of the record of eight titles that he co-holds with Bill Lambertus.

George’s brother Anthony is the third-leading driver at Pocono, and fans frequently see a “Nap-Nap” photo finish. In fact, on Sunday evening George won the fourth race with True Hero by a nose over Anthony and Scootchie; Anthony “returned the favor” in race 10 by teaming with Magic Tricks to hang a head loss on George and the horse Vengeance.