by John Zimich, publicity director, Pocono Downs
Heavy rain didn’t stop George Napolitano, Jr., from picking up where he left off last year as Pocono Downs opened its 2005 harness racing season Saturday night (April 2).
Napolitano, Jr., who swept all four driving and training titles in record-setting fashion in 2004, collected seven training and driving victories Saturday night.
One of his seven victories occurred in the $9,000 open handicap pace (Selma Gordon Memorial Pace) when he brought Hipeka A to the winner’s circle.
Owned by John A. Campagnuolo of Loxahatchee, Fla., Hipeka A sat second or third for most of the race before Napolitano, Jr., assumed command coming down the stretch, winning in 1:54 flat over a sloppy racing surface.
This was the second victory in nine tries this season for Hipeka A, an eight-year-old Topnotcher gelding from Australia. Bullvilleintherain, piloted by Jim Taggart, was second in this feature race with Deerfield Hall (Tom Jackson) third.
Rusty Mahoney A, another down under gelding, won the first race of the new season with a clocking of 1:56.1. Napolitano, Jr., was in the sulky and swept the Daily Double
Campagnuolo and partner Larry Silber, also of Florida, also own Rusty Mahoney A, a 10-year-old Seahawk Hanover gelding with two wins in nine starts in 2005.
Opening race was held in honor of Mike Yavorski, a member of the maintenance staff at Pocono Downs and who recently returned from Iraq after a one-year tour of duty with the 109th Field Artillery.
Mike Simons, who was runner-up to Napolitano, Jr., in the driver standings in 2004, also got off to a good start Saturday night. He collected a driving triple.
Pocono Downs is racing on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights during the month of April with a post time of 7:40.