Wilkes-Barre, PA — Perhaps it was appropriate that it came in the 11th race on an 11-race card on Tuesday afternoon (Sept. 14) at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, but when George Napolitano Jr., Pocono’s all-time leading driver, won the contest with Captain Romance in 1:51, it was the 11,000th victory of his career — a plateau reached previously by only 11 other North American drivers.
“George Nap” made two early moves with the Captaintreacherous sophomore gelding, then yielded the lead to Stellar Yankee. But the aggressive Napolitano tipped his favored pacer outside on the far turn, and inch by inch the pair got by Stellar Yankee to win by a half-length and set a new mark in the milestone victory. Robert Baggitt Jr. trains the winner for J L Sadowsky LLC.
George Napolitano Jr., 55, has an incredible 31 Pocono horsemen’s titles on his resume — 14 driving win crowns (including the last nine), 12 UDR championships (including the last seven), and five titles as winningest trainer — and George again leads Pocono in both driving categories this season. The majority of his lifetime victories have come at Pocono and Harrah’s Philadelphia, 100 miles south on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, where he also has earned many titles.
In getting to 11,000, Napolitano stands alongside Dave Palone, Tony Morgan, Herve Filion, Cat Manzi, David Miller, Aaron Merriman, Tim Tetrick, Dave Magee, Zeke Parker, George Brennan, and Walter Case Jr. as now a member of that very exclusive club. George’s family is scheduled to be at Pocono on Saturday, the track’s next day of racing, when George can be surrounded by family and friends and given a proper salute for this milestone.
The top purse event of the day was a $15,300 trot, taken by the Trixton 3-year-old filly Presto, who defeated all 4-year-old opposition, both mares and males, in 1:55 for driver Anthony Napolitano, trainer Åke Svanstedt, and Brixton Medical Inc. The winner of two straight came with a big uncovered move down the backstretch in narrowly defeating favored So Long Hanover and Sweet Heart AS (who for much of the mile while racing in front looked as if she might be George Napolitano’s 11,000th).
Racing resumes Saturday afternoon at Pocono, with two $16,500 paces for the track’s highest-priced claimers in the spotlight (the track went over the $10 million plateau for seasonal claims this past Saturday). Program pages for the 12:30 p.m. card will be available at the PHHA website.