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That throne is a series of uncomfortable bucket seats along a back wall of the paddock by the first gate at the Harrah’s Philadelphia harness racing track in Chester. As reported by Philadelphia Weekly. Taking a long pull of a giant vape pen, Napolitano exhales a plume of smoke so thick his weathered face completely disappears. When it returns to focus, his head is buried in a racing program, checking once more where he’ll be placed – and on what horse – in just 18 minutes time. Unless you’re familiar with the high stakes sport of harness racing, you’d never know that sitting alone in that corner is one of the winningest drivers in the history of the sport. A world champion, who at his peak pocketed over $8 million in his first half of his career. He’s the driver other drivers emulate. He’s the name on the program that even if he’s riding a long shot, you bet on it. Not because it’ll automatically win, but because with Napolitano on that horse, you’ve got a fighting chance. Bettors know it, and other drivers especially know it. It’s one of the reasons Napolitano is respected, even if he isn’t always well liked. See, in the high prized world of harness racing, everyone is an independent contractor of sorts. In each race, a hefty 5 percent split of a five- or six-figure purse for drivers who finish 1-2-3 serves as supreme motivation. Even on this day as he waits patiently, Napolitano has a chance to clean up at Harrah’s as trainers have him on a horse in every race. “He’s the guy,” said Harrah’s racing official Joe Auger. “He’s one of the best drivers in the world and he knows how to be among the top in almost every race. That’s why his name in a [racing program] gets anyone who knows anything about harness excited. We’re lucky to have a guy like that racing here.” Tim Tetrick, left, another one of harness racing's best is one of Napolitano's fiercest rivals – and friends in the business, "He's a warrior. This guy right here keeps me on my toes." | Image: Kerith Gabriel Even now, Napolitano is atop the leaderboard among drivers at Harrah’s for most starts, wins and purses this season, chasing a 5 percent split of nearly $2.7 million at the time we met for this story. It’s a sport that has given Napolitano so much. But it’s also one that robbed him of his identity. An identity that nearly killed him. ‘God, if you’re real, I could really use you right now’ In the mid-2000s, Pompano Park and Pocono Downs were playgrounds for Napolitano. In 2006, he led all drivers at the latter with 312 wins and over $1.7 million in prize monies. In one of the best years of his life professionally, Napolitano was also racing champion at Pompano both as a trainer and driver.  It wouldn’t be a cliche to at all to call it “riding high,” because that’s what Napolitano was doing – both on and off the track. But it would catch up with him. Both he and the horses he’d train would routinely test positive for banned substances, him for illegal drugs and his horses for enhancers. Champion harness driver George Napolitano waits patiently for his first race of the day at Harrah’s Philadelphia in Chester. Napolitano is the top driver at Harrah’s with over $2 million in purses so far. | Image: Kerith Gabriel It all came to a head the morning of May 7, 2007.  Dale Rapson, vice president of racing operations for Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, announced the driver, then known as “Georgie Nap,” was banned indefinitely from racing at Pocono on the heels of another suspension from the state racing board. A decision that ultimately blackballed him from the sport for more than a year. “I was suspended for so long, I had no choice but to turn my life around,” Napolitano recalled. “They took everything from me. I was lost man, I was absolutely lost. When they took [my license] from me, I was worthless. My wife left me and I was living in my car. I started using cocaine a lot harder, and I was on drugs that I couldn’t get off of. I was living on the streets, it was without question a really scary point in my life.” People in the sport could see Napolitano’s path was one that wasn’t going to end well. Before his redemption and ascension back into harness racing, the “old George” was admittedly, “a piece of shit.” He’d do whatever he had to do to win, and if another driver or trainer got in his way, watch out. “Oh yeah, I’ve clocked guys,” Napolitano said. “I’m probably one of the only drivers in this sport that has done suspension time for punching someone. That was the old George, and when I first started out I had this ego and a real bad temper. I was cocky, wasn’t very humble and if someone got in my way I’d crack the shit out of them.” It was his drug-induced me first, fuck you mentality that made Napolitano a pariah on many facets. It found his family distancing themselves early on despite his success, including his own kid brother, Anthony, who got into the family business of racing 15 years ago and is a top driver in his own right. Anthony will say he was always rooting for his brother to get his life together – but that it had to be from a distance. George, left, and his brother Anthony are the latest in the Napolitano family to carry on a long standing tradition of drivers and trainers in the harness racing game. | Image: Kerith Gabriel “We had to let Georgie figure his life out,” said Anthony, who explained the separation as he parked himself right next next to his brother in a bucket seat just before the third race at Harrah’s. “We are in a sport that when someone falls it’s natural to talk badly about each other, but in the end, who is the best will show up time and time again. My brother put himself through the ringer, but there was no one happier for him than me to see him get his life together and come back and be a rising star for the last 10 years at the two toughest tracks in the country. He’s fought his way back.” It was only after his wife left and on a day in which Napolitano described as a “drug-fueled rampage,” he remembered what a friend told him. “I saw a friend who had gotten out of prison; he looked at me and said, ‘dude, you gotta turn to Jesus.’ I thought he was crazy,” said Napolitano. “One day I went on a rampage with the drugs and drinking and was out of control. I remembered what he said and I got down on the ground and said, ‘God, if you’re real, I could really use you, right now.’ I mean you have to remember man, that before all of this, I was the winningest driver and a champion and all of a sudden it was just gone.” Napolitano went to rehab, but quickly left. Then he went back and stayed longer – and left. But each time, he learned something that kept him coming back. He was changing. A final stint in rehab saw the cocaine-fueled rage sessions cease. His drinking slowed. Family started coming back into the fold. His wife returned. And in that, Napolitano found a greater purpose. “I learned in that time that, like horses, life is a grind,” Napolitano said.  “If you let it get to you, if you aren’t mentally and physically sharp, it’ll eat you up and spit you right out.” ‘Everything is calculated now. Measured.’ Routine arguably has saved George Napolitano’s life. He does the same thing most days when he wakes up inside his West Chester home. He gets on his computer, checks the United States Trotting Association website to see where he’s placed or if there are any changes to his draws. Then it’s a series of calisthenics, stretches and a protein shake before he heads out the door to Harrah’s or a number of other area tracks.   George Napolitano equated the start of a harness race to being in a heavyweight boxing match. "It's like two champions getting ready to go at it. It's about as intense a feeling you'll ever get." | Image: Kerith Gabriel  Since his license has been fully restored, Napolitano has been on the circuit hard. Every day doesn’t find him at Harrah’s, as he could be at any track on any given day, even Pocono Downs, where his ban has been lifted and he’s returned as one of the top drivers. – You think George Napolitano has confidence? You bet he does...Talent isn't always enough. If you don't think you're great, you can't be great.” – Bob Pandolfo, columnist and handicapper for DRF Bets wrote in a May 2016 story on the Napolitano brothers. – However, he’ll tell you right away that with his support system minutes away, Harrah’s is home. Today, his faith and his family take precedent. He checks in with his wife, Kathy, who in spite of her decision to leave her husband at a time he arguably needed her most, Napolitano will attest that he couldn’t have gotten himself back without her tough love and support. He spends quality time with his son George, Jr. and routinely talks to his favorite trainers in the business in Gilbert Garcia and Chris Oaks. Monotony? Sure. But to stay regimented, it’s necessary. “I don’t live like that anymore and I don’t put myself in situations where I could be tempted to live like that,” said Napolitano. “I put Jesus first. I read my Bible, I look out for my family and I take things slowly. Everything is calculated now. Measured. Now it’s my faith, my family and my job. Where before, it was always my job.” The grind of horse racing and the toll it took on Napolitano’s life can be read across his face at first glance. But it’s something about the family business that keeps him coming back. Money, sure. That’s first and foremost, the Napolitano brothers aren’t hiding that. But there’s something more for George that is going to take a while for him to ever step away from. George Napolitano says his greatest high has always arrived from holding the reins of a great horse. | Image: Kerith Gabriel “The high I used to get doing drugs? I get that once the gate opens and I’m on a horse,” said Napolitano with a smile beamed across his weathered face. “Especially a great horse. When you get a good horse and you’re going down the stretch, you feel like you’re in a Ferrari, and you’re on cruise. They are beautiful animals and great horses make for great drivers. There’s a lot great drivers here that never get the opportunity to drive a great horse." And when it comes to one day calling it quits? "I’m gonna let Jesus tell me when it’s time to go," he adds. "I’m not giving it up yet. I was a true champion for a long time and I just want to feel that again. Right now, I’m enjoying life, and I know that sooner or later the torch has to be handed over, but it ain’t gonna be in the next couple of years. I’m still here to keep people on their toes.” Anthony pivots in his seat to look at his brother. “[George] can’t leave yet, he’s my motivation," Anthony said. "He’s got my back and I have his. It’s nice because we share the same qualities as far as appreciating the money that we make in this business...people call it a shadow, but I’m happy to be in that shadow. My brother fought his way back and he’s here now. I’m not No. 1, but at my track he’s my No. 1 and I’m No. 2 and I’m happy with that.” Reprinted with permission of The Philadelphia Weekly

CHESTER PA - Harness racing driver George Napolitano Jr. won five races on Friday afternoon at Harrah's Philadelphia, including four in a row late in the card, as he approaches his fifth straight dash title at the riverside oval and seventh overall sulky win crown in the track's 13-year history. The quintet gives Napolitano an unbridgeable 269-250 advantage over Tim Tetrick going into the season's final card on Sunday. There were three $16,000 feature events on Friday in Philly, with the only one on the pace taken by Bettor's Delight sophomore filly Delightful Feather in 1:54.4, completing an engine venture with a 28.1 last quarter for driver Andrew McCarthy while keeping Fine Art safe by a length. The victory was one of three on the afternoon for the brother team of trainer Tom and owner John Cancelliere, and it was the fourth for Delightful Feather in her last five starts. Also raising his recent record to 4-for-5 was the Swan For All sophomore gelding Swansea, who came up the inside from third-in to take a new mark of 1:55, a half-length ahead of Pandora's Box, in the first trotting feature. Tony Morgan was in the sulky for trainer Scott Di Domenico and the ownership of Dana Parham and Triple D Stables Inc. The star of the day, though, shone in the second trotting contest, as the Mr Cantab three-year-old gelding River Otter was sent to the front by Dexter Dunn at the quarter and improved his position from there, drawing well clear of his field in a startling 1:53.2, lowering his mark over three seconds for owner Yinson Quezada. It was the winner's second start for trainer Anette Lorentzon, who also had three victorious charges on the day, since coming to town from Hoosier Park. The final card of the 2018 season at Harrah's Philadelphia will be held on Sunday, with first post set for 2:05 p.m. PHHA / Harrah's Philadelphia    

WILKES-BARRE, PA - Saturday was closing night for the 2018 harness racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with ceremonies honoring some of the top horses and horsemen of the meet sharing the spotlight with the C.K.G. Billings Amateur Driving Series Eastern Regional Final #2. The Billings purse was $12,000, but you'd have thought they were going for a hundred times that as they were three-deep to a 27.4 quarter. Past that station, Winwood Scout, the favorite, kept On The Podium out in the 38-degree air, and the middle fractions of 57.2 and 1:27.2 were very demanding. With the best seat in the house behind the battle up front was driver David Offenberg and the Cantab Hall gelding Fiji, and when the outside horse melted back on the far turn, Fiji was ready to spring. Offenberg moved his horse outside at headstretch, but Winwood Scout was favored for good reason, and it took until the very last steps before "Dave The Rave" could nudge Fiji past the gallant Winwood Scout and driver Bob Davis, winning by the smallest possible margin in 1:57.1. For being named after a tropical island (which was the homeland of the famous Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka), Fiji is certainly a good cold weather performer - he also accounted for a Billings event in November of last year. The winner of $164,637 is trained by Eric Abbatiello for the Allister Stables LLC of Offenberg, and he may add to that total this year, as by virtue of winning this Billings Regional Final Championship, Offenberg has qualified for the $25,000 Billings Gold Cup at Yonkers on Sunday the 25th - and he may well take along the sharp and proven "winter warrior" Fiji. (Offenberg also looks like a "winter warrior" - he won the NAADA Final in December 2015 and the Silver Cup in November of that year, and he was second in the GSY Fall Final on Friday.) The equine honoree of the evening was Pocono Trotter of the Year Homicide Hunter, who locally won the Breeders Crown and set a world record for 1¼ miles in a year where he also became The World's Fastest Trotter with his 1:48.4 mile at Lexington. Chris Oakes, the horse's trainer and himself the winningest trainer of the year here three times, was on hand, and also took part in the ceremony honoring his 20YO son Hunter Oakes, who took the award for top UTR with a sparkling rating of .556. Rene Allard won his second straight training victory title and fifth in the last six years, finishing with 133 visits to Victory Lane, including on closing night. Allard's "handful" of training title ties him for the all-time lead at Pocono with a horseman whom some may have forgotten once had an active stable - George Napolitano Jr. (2001 and 2003-2006). "George Nap" of course also had his turn in the spotlight, winning the crowns for driving victories (366) and UDR (.374). George has now been the top driving dashwinner at Pocono twelve times, including the last seven consecutive seasons, and he won the last race of the year with Feeling Cam Lucky to finish with the second-most victories at Pocono in a year, behind only his own record of 407 in 2015. George's tenth UDR title at the mountain oval was his fifth in a row. One trophy not given was "Most Driving Wins with $50+ Longshots" - if they did, Jim Taggart Jr. solidified his hold on this honor, guiding home Roll Away Joe to a $51.20 victory for his seventh of the meet, two ahead of Tom Jackson and Anthony Napolitano. FINISHING LINES - It may have been Closing Night, but it appears that not too many stables will be shutting down for the year - there was $163,750 in claiming action on the last card of the meet, with nine horses changing hands. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - A trio of $15,000 conditioned events were featured on the penultimate card of 2018 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono on Tuesday night. The first of two trots resulted in an easy victory for the Kadabra gelding Northern Major in 1:57.3. Matt Kakaley moved the winner to the front past a 29 quarter and put up midsplits of 59 and 1:28.1 before storming off by 5½ lengths over closing Broadway Bruiser. The race favorite, Northern Major is trained by Ron Burke for Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC. In the other trotting contest, the Triumphant Caviar sophomore gelding QB Kemp rallied from the pocket to record his second straight triumph, here in 1:57.1. Favored Bautista went to the top in a quick 27.4 on a cool night, rated the middle fractions to 57.1 and 1:27.2, but still could not withstand the rush from the two-hole by QB Kemp, driven by Tyler Buter for trainer Rob Harmon and Harmon Racing Stable LLC. The pacing event was for fillies and mares, with Don't Mach Mia surrendering the early lead to Parkin In Heaven in a 28.1, brushing to the lead and posting middle fractions of 57 and 1:26, then holding off the pocketsitter to notch a neck triumph in 1:55.1. George Napolitano Jr. was sulkysitting for trainer/owner Gilbert Garcia-Owen. Earlier, pacer SB Ideal In Art, driver John Kakaley (Matt's father), and trainer Jim Ray became the first horse-driver-trainer combination to post two $50+ victories in 2018 at Pocono when they teamed up for a $148.80 shocker in race two. The trio had clicked at a $58.00 price on July 31. Tempster Hanover is the only other horse to have two $50+ wins at the meet, but he had changed hands between his May 8 and June 26 upsets. Trainer Ray tied for the top at Pocono with his second training bomber: Judy Welty, Jose Godinez, Alex Kavoleff, Jason Robinson, and Ron Burke also have two upset winners, with the last two joining Ray as both posting their double within the last month and having one of their twosome under question pay $100+. The last card of the 2018 season will take place at The Downs on Saturday night, with the yet-undistributed yearend awards to be given. The world's fastest trotter and "home track" Breeders Crown winner, Homicide Hunter, will receive local Trotter of the Year honors, with the horse's trainer, Chris Oakes, also to be on hand to see his son Hunter Oakes get the award for posting the colony's top UTR. Rene Allard will be feted upon winning his fifth training win title in the last six years, while George Napolitano Jr. will sweep the driving dash title and UDR title for the sixth straight year - "George Nap" has thirteen Pocono dash crowns and eleven UDR championships to his credit, both obviously local records. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

CHESTER, PA - The Muscle Massive sophomore harness racing gelding Jackie's Jim, trainer Neal Ehrhart, and driver George Napolitano Jr. continued their recent "in-form" style, combining to win the $16,000 featured trot on Wednesday afternoon at Harrah's Philadelphia in 1:56.2. Napolitano, who swept the first four races en route to five victories on the day, reserved Jackie's Jim off the early pace, then sent him uncovered before the half. He showed sharp acceleration to make the lead at the 5/8, then opened up just enough ground on two rivals who had been caught inside when he powered to the lead, Lindsey's Pride and Presidential Zette, who dead-heated for second, a neck behind the winner, who recorded his third straight victory. Ehrhart, clicking at a 24% rate since October 19, trains the winner for Virginia Ehrhart, Leta Deatrick, and Jacqueline Dobson. In the $14,000 pacing co-feature, Tony Morgan sent the Bettor's Delight sophomore gelding Bettor Than Spring to the lead past the quarter and held sway the rest of the way, but the winner had to be game to withstand the late burst of 40-1 shot Gideon Seelster by a neck in triumphing in 1:55.1. Bettor Than Spring has now won three of four trips behind the gate since pairing with trainer Scott Di Domenico and the ownership of Joseph Bongiorno LLC and Triple D Stables Inc. In the $14,000 trotting co-feature Wednesday, the Conway Hall sophomore gelding Flyhawk El Diablo took advantage of the "eligible at time of entry" rule after winning his last start, making it two straight while equaling the lifetime mark of 1:57.2 that he notched in his last race. Andrew McCarthy guided the winner to the lead going under the wire the first time, and the pair had more than enough to keep pocketsitting First Class Act in arrears by 2¾ lengths under the wire the second time for owner/trainer James DeLucia. The early move to command also was a successful route for the Majestic Son mare Majestic Presence, who handled a $12,500 fast-class field in 1:55.4. Marcus Miller got away with a relaxed 58.4 half, then sprinted home in 57 with the winner of $180,310 to be 1¼ lengths of pocketsitting Royal Surprise for aunt/trainer Julie Miller and owner Kapildeo Singh. From the PHHA / Harrah's Philadelphia

WILKES-BARRE, PA - The Somebeachsomewhere gelding Dreams Beachboy made it two straight over The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono's oval, and four wins while not missing the board in his last eight starts, with a 1:51.2 victory in the $21,500 pacing feature on Saturday night. The track's leading driver, George Napolitano Jr., worked out a pocket trip behind the pacesetting Sprinter N, while the latter, after getting to the quarter in 26.4, belied his name by resting to the half in 56.2. Down the backstretch first-over Music Is Art made life tougher on the leader, necessitating a 1:23.3 breaking of the beam at the ¾ pole, and the extra expenditure of energy helped set up the late rally of Dreams Beachboy, who won by a half-length over the tough Music Is Art, with Sprinter N another neck back in third. Trainer Deborah Burnet is 2-for-2 at Pocono this year, both with the victorious winner of $242,784, for Crawford Farms Racing. George Napolitano Jr.'s brother Anthony won the co-featured $16,000 claiming handicap pace, the night's opener, with the Bettor's Delight gelding The Onlyest One in 1:52.4. The winner visited Victory Lane for the twelfth time this season, backing out to follow cover from his third-in position, then catching pacesetting That Man Of Mine and pocketsitting Wick N by a neck, with the last two-named deadheating for the deuce. Laurie Patistas owns and trains The Onlyest One. There are only six more cards left in the 2018 Pocono Downs season: the following Sundays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays, as Mondays will go dark for the remaining seasonal action, which concludes November 17. From the PHHA / Pocono Downs  

CHESTER, PA - The up-and-coming horses in the "non-winners of five races lifetime" classification were featured at Harrah's Philadelphia this afternoon (and into the twilight, complementing the first day of the Breeders Cup), with a pair of $16,000 contests. The first was for distaff pacers, and it fell to the Somebeachsomewhere sophomore filly Zutopia in 1:53.3. George Napolitano Jr. sent the sophomore to the top in a 27.2 quarter, then yielded to the favorite Sarpa Hanover as she brushed to command early, hitting the middle splits in 56.3 and 1:24.4, at the latter station being joined by first-over Danikova. Through the stretch Napolitano used the inside space to rally Zutopia, with her biggest stretch challenge coming from Painted Lady, who also shot the inside then had to alter outside and finished swiftly between horses to come up a length shy. Danikova was third, a half-length behind Painted Lady and a half-length ahead of Sarpa Hanover. Zutopia, now a 5-time winner this year, is trained by Tom Cancelliere for his brother John. The track lightning had been turned on by the time the second feature, which was for trotters, went gateward, and Exarch justified the fans' 2-5 favoritism of him with a win in 1:56.2, but he had to be good late to answer a challenge for pocketsitting Armageddon Seelster. The latter was actually on top early before yielding to the chalk in 28.4, and the favorite then put up middle clockings of 59 and 1:27.4. With the relative easy fractions under the guidance of Tony Morgan, it looked like Exarch might be all but home, but Armageddon Seelster gave him a good argument through the lane before finishing second, a neck back. Ron Burke conditions the winner for Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC. In a $14,500 conditioned pacers for more seasoned pacing females, Gold Orchid N remained undefeated in four U.S. starts, lowering her Stateside mark to 1:51.2. The daughter of Bettor's Delight got away second and left a huge hole most of the way as pacesetter Diamondtoothgertie set fractions of 27.4, 56, and 1:23.4, but driver Dexter Dunn had the four-year-old Kiwi mare in high gear at the last-named station, quickly overhauled the pacesetter on the turn, and drew off to a 4½ length victory over Brazuca, who raced inside and had a head on the wire over Nike Franco N, who had gapped throughout the race but was flying late. Gold Orchid N now has six wins in but 21 career starts, with more successes likely in the near future. She is owned by BAMQ Inc., which consists of Barry Freeman, Andrew Steiger, and trainer Mark Harder (the Q is a question mark). Not only did Milady Denver A provide the biggest price of the afternoon when she took the twelfth contest at a $56.60 mutuel for driver Pat Berry, she also provided Guatemala native Fredi Herrera his first-ever training victory. With only six starts since he got his license, all with the winner, Herrera now sports a 372% profit ratio for his backers. From the PHHA/Harrah's Philadelphia

Homicide Hunter (George Napolitano Jr.) slipped up the passing lane to pass Top Flight Angel (Andy Miller) to win the $500,000 Breeders Crown Open Trot in 1:52.3 on sloppy track. Homicide Hunter is trained By Chris Oakes and owned by Crawford Farms Racing. Top Flight Angel led off the gate and hit the first quarter in :27, followed by Homicide Hunter along the rail. Those two led the field to the :55.3 half and on to the 1:24 three-quarter marker. In sight of the finish line, Homicide Hunter, trailing the leader, angled to the inside passing lane and overtook Top Flight Angel to win by about a length. It was the first Breeders Crown win for Napolitano. "Wow. Words can't even explain it," he said. "It's unbelievable. I am so grateful. It's a pretty simple track to drive on, and I have the right people beside me." On if trainer Chris Oakes had any words for him before the race, Napolitano said, "Nothing. Chris didn't say a word. He knows I know this horse and I know the track. I usually win the four claimers, not the Breeders Crown." Top Flight Angel was second and Warrawee Roo was third. The winner returned $10.20 to win, $5.20 to place, and $4.00 to show. by Ellen Harvey, For The Breeders Crown

WILKES-BARRE, PA - George Napolitano Jr., the leading driver at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, combined with Carmen Auciello, the leading trainer at Woodbine Mohawk Park who also campaigns a string at Pocono, to account for the Tuesday night $17,500 distaff pacing feature with Kay's Delight in a lifetime best 1:52.2. Gigi From Fiji went down the road with fractions of 27.1, 56, and 1:24.2, with favored Lady Shadow, the $2M+-winning mare, in the pocket, and "George Nap" having to coming first-over with the daughter of Bettor's Delight. But Kay's Delight proved equal to the demanding task, stepping her own last half in 55.3 to win by ¾ of a length over Lady Shadow, with second-over Attention Hanover third, ahead of Gigi From Fiji. Kay's Delight has now been first or second in her last four starts for well-known owner Bob Burgess, and she has lifetime earnings of $137,122. George Napolitano Jr. continued his recent hot streak with three Tuesday winners, but Matt Kakaley was the biggest winner on the night, visiting Victory Lane five times, including three times with Ron Burke trainees - which paid (surprisingly) $9.60, $30.60, and $18.20. Driver Mike Simons had 3999 career victories when last seen in Pennsylvania this past Thursday; he split his stable between Pocono and reopened Pompano Park, where he got career victory #4000 on Sunday and three more during a hot Sunday-Monday stay of 13-4-4-0-.470. Returning to cooler climes at Pocono on Tuesday, Simons, known as "The Trot Man," posted win #4004 with the developing D'Dream, who won in 1:56 for trainer Neal Ehrhart for the trotter's sixth win in her last seven starts, and in the last race got #4005 with another Ehrhart trotter, Jackie's Jim. From the PHHA / Pocono Downs

George Napolitano Jr. has won more races than any driver in the history of The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, but it was a second-place finish at his home oval that proved to be a winner in terms of punching Napolitano's ticket to his first Breeders Crown final. Napolitano guided Stella Jane to a runner-up finish behind undefeated Woodside Charm in their Breeders Crown elimination last week to advance to Saturday's $600,000 championship for 2-year-old filly trotters at Pocono. Napolitano, who has won 11 driving titles at Pocono, drove Stella Jane for owner Crawford Farms Racing and trainer John Butenschoen. Crawford Farms also bred the filly, a daughter of Crazed out of Naughty Nana. The 52-year-old Napolitano, a New York native who splits his time between Pennsylvania and Florida, has won 9,360 races in his career, ranking 21st in North American harness racing history, and was the North American dash champion in 2010 when he won 748 times. All 12 Breeders Crown championships, with $6.4 million in total purses, will be raced Saturday at Pocono. Post time is 5:30 p.m. (EDT) for the first race. "It's going to be exciting," Napolitano said. "I thought (Stella Jane's elimination) was amazing. I was totally satisfied. She's an awesome little horse to drive and she's got a great trainer and great owners." Stella Jane has won two of 11 races and hit the board in eight of her most recent nine starts. Napolitano has driven the filly twice, winning a division of the Simpson Stakes on Sept. 27 at Harrah's Philadelphia. "The Crawfords have had luck with the horses that they own with George," Butenschoen said. "He won with Stella Jane at (Philly) so I said let's put him up. It's his home track and maybe we can get some karma going. I guess it worked." Napolitano has won more than 500 races in nine consecutive years, including this year. He is on his way to another driving title at Pocono, which would be his seventh in a row, and is battling with Tim Tetrick for his fifth consecutive title at Harrah's Philadelphia. "I kind of stayed local," Napolitano said. "I made an agreement with myself years ago and I'm happy with doing it this way, with this place, (Philly) and Pompano. That's good enough for me. "I think it's a pretty big accomplishment doing the two tracks, here and (Philly). It's a tough grind, but we're getting it done. It's a matter of having great people around you. Trainers that it would take forever to mention keep on consistently putting me back on horses. That is the difference right there. I have a lot of great owners that love me and I love them. It's an awesome journey." So will Napolitano have a home-track advantage in the Breeders Crown? "I think you've got to have a good horse," he said with a smile. "That's the biggest advantage." * * * * * Napolitano won't be the only Breeders Crown newcomer driving in the 2-year-old filly trot. Bob McClure, Verlin Yoder, and Simon Allard also will be appearing on championship night for the first time. All three drove elimination winners. McClure, a 28-year-old Canadian, piloted Champagne Jane to victory in her elimination. Champaign Jane is owned by Serge Godin's Determination stable and trained by Luc Blais. McClure is third in wins and purses in Canada this year. He led Canada in wins in 2017 and 2016 and was third in 2015. "For the last four or five years I just drove the small tracks in Ontario," McClure said. "I moved to Woodbine Entertainment Group last December and it snowballed from there. A lot of good stables have picked me up. That makes all the difference in the world." Champagne Jane, by Holiday Road out of Dicent No, broke her maiden with her elimination win. She has hit the board a total of seven times and entered the Breeders Crown off a second-place finish in the Ontario Sire Stakes championship for 2-year-old filly trotters. "She's been getting better every week," McClure said. "She's been battling some health issues, so the colder weather helps and Luc's got her healthy. She's always showed ability, she just lacked that last step. She seems to have found it at the right time." McClure, who has 2,207 career wins, also won a Breeders Crown elimination with Paula Wellwood-trained 2-year-old male trotter Smart As Hill. "It's been a lot of fun," McClure said. "Hopefully it stays fun." Yoder is the owner-trainer-driver of Woodside Charm, who is a perfect 6-for-6 heading into the Breeders Crown final and won her elimination by 12-1/2 lengths over Stella Jane. "We did what we had to do," Yoder said. "She's an absolute professional. We don't know how or why, but we're enjoying the moment. "It's pretty cool," he added about appearing in the final. "It probably won't sink in until we get there. It's going to be a pretty neat experience." Allard drove When Dovescry, by Muscle Hill out of Cedar Dove, to a win in her elimination. She has won four of six races and never been worse than third. She is owned by Go Fast Stable, Yves Sarrazin, Kapildeo Singh, and Lawrence Dumain. Rene Allard is the trainer. She won her elimination in gate-to-wire fashion after coming from off the pace in all but one other race. "We were very patient with her, trying to teach her the right things, to come from the back," Simon Allard said. "We didn't really want to teach her to leave because we knew that she would have done that very easily. "We were very confident she had explosive speed and knew all along she was a great filly." Following is the draw for the $600,000 Breeders Crown final for 2-year-old filly trotters. Elimination winners drew for post one through five in an order determined by lot. PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer 1-When Dovescry-Simon Allard-Rene Allard 2-Woodside Charm-Verlin Yoder-Verlin Yoder 3-Champagne Jane-Bob McClure-Luc Blais 4-Cloud Nine Fashion-Tim Tetrick-Jim Campbell 5-Special Honor-Andy Miller-Julie Miller 6-Whispering Oaks-Yannick Gingras-Jimmy Takter 7-Miss You Kelly-Tim Tetrick-Bruce Lauer 8-The Ice Dutchess-Yannick Gingras-Jimmy Takter 9-Stella Jane-George Napolitano Jr.-John Butenschoen by Ken Weingartner, for the Breeders Crown

WILKES-BARRE, PA - George Napolitano Jr., the track's all-time leading driver who earned his first spot in a Breeders Crown championship with freshman trotting filly Stella Jane here on Friday, still knows what he's doing in the overnight races as well, winning the $18,000 claiming pace feature at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono on Sunday with Ideal Kiss in 1:52, with the mercury only a half-dozen digits above freezing. Napolitano made a "patented" quarter-move with the American Ideal gelding past a 26 quarter, then went on to post midsplits of 55 and 1:23 en route to a 3¾ length victory, his tenth of the year. Ideal Kiss, who is owned by Northfolk Racing Stable, now has earnings of $109,050 this year and $193,750 lifetime. Napolitano is an "equal-opportunity driver" for the highpowered Team Oakes - he won here on Sunday with two horses that father Chris trains, and two with pupils of son Hunter, including Ideal Kiss. A pair of $17,500 conditioned events were co-featured on Sunday. In the trot, Two AM took his third victory in his last four trips to the gate, with Tyler Buter also using quarter-moving tactics en route to a length win in 1:54.1. Todd Buter trains the Muscle Massive gelding, the winner of his 2016 Pennsylvania Stallion Series division and $296,761 careerwise, for Gene Oldford Farms LLC, Lynette Buter, and William and Carol Fuhs. On the pace, it was "George Nap" again reporting back to Victory Lane, this time with the rapidly-improving Somebeachsomewhere gelding Blayde Hanover in 1:51. Fractions of 27.2, 56.1, and 1:23.2 laid down from the pole were too much for his opponents to handle, with Blayde Hanover 2¾ lengths clear for trainer Brandon Todd and Belrose Standard LLC while boosting his bankroll to $159,151. In all, Napolitano had five winners on the Pocono card, on top of the three races he took at Harrah's before heading up the Northeast Extension of the Turnpike for his Sunday Pocono duties. Brother Anthony had three winners on the local card - the Breeders Crown may have cost them a chance at the combined 31 winners total they posted in just 53 races here last week (58%), but they're both still red-hot. FINISHING LINES - The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono and the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen's Association congratulate Pocono regular Mike Simons on notching his 4000th career win. The leading driver at Pocono in 2002, Simons, who splits his year between Pennsylvania and Pompano Park, won with his first pari-mutuel drive of the season in the Sunshine State, with the Mickey McNichol-trained Blueberry Heaven. With the Breeders Crown eliminations in the books and ten of the twelve Championships for this Saturday's $6,000,000 Championship Night already drawn, the final two casts of characters - the Open horses of both gaits - will learn their post positional fates at a noontime press conference at The Downs on Tuesday. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA -- Keystone Riptide recorded her third win in her last four starts, quarter-moving to the lead and going on to a 1:52.4 victory in the $17,500 distaff pacing feature Tuesday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.   Driver Marcus Miller brushed with the daughter of Somebeachsomewhere past the 27.1 quarter, then put up midsplits of 56 and 1:24.1. The winner of $260,800 stayed strong in the lane to win by two lengths over closing Forever Liza, with favored Sail To The Beach having to settle for third behind the Randy Bendis-trained mare; Bendis is also co-owner with the eight-time 2018 winner with Thomas Pollack.   In a thrilling internal battle that lasted the entire week, Anthony Napolitano notched five winners on the Tuesday card while his brother George took down two heats, making their "final score" for the four-day race week Anthony Nap 16, George Nap 15. The Napolitanos thus won 31 of the 53 races conducted during the week -- which means that some combination of their red and white colors was seen in the winners circle an extraordinary 58% of the time this week!   Speaking of "extraordinary," as the saying goes, "It all comes down to the Breeders Crown," and the Breeders Crown now comes to the Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, bringing the cream of the harness racing crop to northeast Pennsylvania.   The only Friday night card of the year, at 7 p.m., will see ten elimination races for two-year-olds; on Saturday starting at 7, all fourteen races will be Crown elimination for three-year-olds and for the older set. Those advancing out of their eliminations will be back a week from Saturday, October 27, for the $6,000,000 2018 Breeders Crown Championship Card, with the Pocono action on the huge night beginning at 5:30 p.m.   From the PHHA/Pocono Downs    

CHESTER, PA - Heavily-favored Skippin By, intimidating the field by virtue of her 1:50.1 victory last week, was the only major leaver and stole a 1:53 victory in the $18,000 featured pace for mares at Harrah's Philadelphia Friday. True, it was a cool 62 degrees at the riverside oval Friday - but in 67-degree weather last Friday, Skippin By went fractions of 27, 55.3, and 1:23, adding on a 27.1 last quarter in a blowout victory, In this event, George Napolitano Jr, sent the daughter of Shadow Play to early command and set slightly-more pedestrian fractions of 28, 56, and 1:24 - and then had to chase her the length of the stretch to maintain a healthy margin, which at the wire was 1 1/2 lengths over the noted closer Penpal. Skippin By has had a giant 2018 already, with seven wins and seven seconds in 26 starts, with earnings of $110,900 for trainer Nick Surick and the ownership of Cornerstone Stock Farm. Lifetime, Skippin By has 33 victories and a bankroll of $877,409. In the $14,500 cofeatured mares pace, the Ashlee's Big Guy mare Royal Knockout joined a dynamic outer tier from last, then swept by in the lane to record a $91.00 upset in 1:53.2. Tony Morgan, second on the alltime winningest North American drivers list, timed his late charge well to raise the mare's earnings to $466,073 for trainer Michael Posner and owners Michael and Adrienne Selis. Western Canada's top pacing filly of 2016-2017, with 16 wins in 18 starts and earnings over $250,000, was an unlucky 0-for-13 at four after coming south of the border - but all it took was a California trainer and a New Zealand driver to get her home first at Philly on Friday. Yoga Pants, a daughter of Sportswriter, finally found the U.S. winners circle in her 14th start of the year for trainer Lou Pena, driver Dexter Dunn, and the Wish Me Luck Stables LLC of Gap PA - which is 42 miles from Harrah's in Chester PA, slightly closer than the 2950 miles from Vancouver, the distaff's base when north of the border. From the PHHA/Harrah's Philadelphia

WILKES-BARRE, PA - The two-year-old American Ideal - Shake That Junk colt Shake That House might well have earned himself a spot in his division's Breeders Crown elimination ten days hence at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, coming within 3/5 of a second of his divisional world record by winning a $15,000 pace Tuesday in 1:50.2 over the mountain oval. The winner, a ¾ brother to 2017 Breeders Crown champion Split The House, quarter-moved from third for driver George Napolitano Jr. after another well-bred horse, the sophomore Captain Deo (a Somebeachsomewhere colt out of the $1.9M-winning Worldly Beauty), smoked the opening panel in 25.3 in the "nw 4 races" event. Shake That House went on to post midsplits of 54.3 and 1:22.1, then held off the stretch charge of Captain Deo by a half-length. It was the seventh lifetime start and third win for Shake That House, who was coming off a 3-3 finish in the Metro elims and final, and who previously had won in 1:52.2 at Vernon. Chris Oakes, the trainer of not only Split The House but also the new world's fastest trotter Homicide Hunter, conditions the rapidly-developing freshman for Crawford Farms Racing, Alan Johnston, and Norfolk Racing Stables. The 1:50.2 clocking was just short of the 1:49.4 world record of Somestarsomewhere set, appropriately enough, in a 2013 Breeders Crown elimination right here at Pocono. Earlier, Napolitano did something he does not do regularly - drive a horse who paid $50.80 to win. Revelry, who had only one show finish in seven career starts despite often showing good early speed, used off-the-pace tactics on Tuesday to give "George Nap" his third $50+ horse of the meet. Trainer/driver Fern Paquet Jr. also got in on the Tuesday longshot fun by handling Embassy Seelster as she came home first to the tune of $53.60, giving Pocono its tenth card of the meet during which two winners paid $50+. Napolitano, the track's leading driver both all-time and this season, had five winners on the Tuesday Pocono card, and his brother Anthony visited Victory Lane three times. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

CHESTER, PA - On a special Friday night card of racing at Harrah's Philadelphia, the Shadow Play mare Skippin By was used hard to get the early lead, but she showed in the last quarter she had ample energy in reserve, taking the $18,000 featured pace for distaffs in 1:50.1. Skippin By was hustled out of the gate by driver George Napolitano Jr., as both Monica Gallagher and Hold It Hanover also left the switch with alacrity. After "Hold It" backed off to a 3-tuck at the 1/8, Skippin By pressed her case and got the lead after working to the quarter in 27. But after midsplits of 55.3 and 1:23, Skippin By powered off from her rivals with a 27.1 kicker, winning by 2 3/4 lengths over Monica Gallagher and raising her lifetime tally to $868,409 for trainer Nick Surick and Cornerstone Stock Farm. The eight-year-old mare Regil Elektra recorded her 48th lifetime victory, sending her earnings to $1,073,923, with a victory in 1:52.1, last half 55.3, in the $14,500 distaff pace co-feature. Driver Tony Morgan moved from the pocket with the victorious daughter of Mach Three in front of the stands, getting around early leader Future Headlines easily, then dashed home from there to be a 1 1/2 length winner over that rival for trainer Keith Armer and the Fred Monteleone Estate. Regil Elektra was also the fifth in a consecutive line of horses who paid $6.00 or less - without being the favorite! Harrah's will pick up the action again on Sunday at 2:05 p.m., with a $25,000 winners-over pace for females heading a strong card (that might complement the Futurity Day card at Lexington nicely for simulcast fans). There will also be a special live offering of racing on Columbus Day Monday at 12:25 p.m., with over $200,000 on the line for John Simpson Sr. stakes series three-year-old colts of both gaits. From the PHHA/Harrah's Philadelphia

CHESTER, PA - The Somebeachsomewhere mare Dr J's Kiss, sixth at the ¾ pole, swung four-wide at the head of the stretch and went right on by in taking the $17,000 featured distaff pace on Wednesday at Harrah's Philadelphia in 1:52.4. Driver Simon Allard, guiding the Joe Pavia Jr. trainee for the first time, followed third-over in a 27.1 backstretch flow that took its toll on both pacesetting favorite Jewels Forreal and first-over Dolphin Island, then swung three-wide behind second-over Rob Them Blind in the middle of the far turn and wider yet off the final curve. Rob Them Blind made the lead in the stretch but couldn't withstand the late rush of Dr J's Kiss, as she won by a length while breaking the six-figure barrier in lifetime earnings for co-owners Pavia, Steven Held, and Dr. Bridgette Jablonsky. The Muscle Mass sophomore gelding Yuge, three-wide most of the first bend and not on top until coming off that bend, maintained control through the rest of the mile to win the day's $16,000 top trot in 1:55.3. Yuge raised his lifetime bankroll to $127,969 for trainer Ed Lohmeyer, co-owner with Ed Lohmeyer Jr. and Dr. Patty Hogan, completing a win for veterinarians in both the Wednesday Philly features. As for driver George Napolitano Jr., the win was one of three on the day for him, including the card's only two favorites - in the first race and the last race. Racing resumes tomorrow at 12:25 p.m., but Philly's Friday card will begin at 6:30 p.m. After the usual Sunday action beginning at 2:05 p.m., there will be a special live card on Columbus Day, Monday, October 8 at 12:25 p.m., with over $200,000 in stakes action in the John Simpson Sr. series, with three-year-old colts of both gaits each contesting three divisions. From the PHHA/Harrah's Philadelphia  

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