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By George, He's Gaining On Them

Published: October 15, 2015 11:07 am ET

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With his tenth winning drive of the day on Wednesday, George Napolitano Jr. was tied for the North American lead in harness races won in 2015....for 45 minutes.

Aaron Merriman then won his third of the night at Northfield Park to regain sole possession of the top.

Napolitano had a ten-winner day for the fourth time in as many months on Wednesday. He drove in nine of the first eleven races at Harrah's Philadelphia, winning four of them, then headed northward for nighttime racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, where (as he does in Philly) George tops the driver colony. (By the way, he originally had a single call in the 13th race at Philly, One Badland Nite -- who won.)

Arriving at the mountain oval in time to drive in race three, Napolitano went around a mucky track in 50-degree temperatures twelve times -- and won half of those races, giving him 10 on the day, a feat he previously achieved on July 26, August 16, and September 16. At the end of October 14, he has already driven 57 winners in the month -- more than four wins a day, despite Monday being a totally 'dark' day in eastern Pennsylvania! (George had four at Pocono on Tuesday; Philly was dark.)

His win in the very last race at Pocono, completing a Napolitano-driven / Anette Lorentzon-trained Late Double with Kayla As, was his 657th of 2015. And here's why that number is -- or was -- so important.

For most of 2015, the North American sulky win derby has had Aaron Merriman a bit ahead of Ronnie Wrenn Jr. -- the same scenario as last year, where Wrenn had a tremendous flurry at the end of the year to catch Merriman and garner his second straight dash-winning crown.

But with the amazing totals Napolitano has been posting 'back East' (he's had 355 victories since July 1), the two Northfield regulars have had company calling. Going into Monday, the scores were Merriman 648, Napolitano 643, and Wrenn 629.

The Ohio drivers haven't had time to look over their shoulders -- they've been too busy having their picture taken in the Northfield winners half-circle. Merriman had three wins on Monday and four on Tuesday to go into Wednesday with 655 wins; Wrenn did even better, with five and six win nights, respectively, to boost his total to 640.

On Wednesday at Northfield, Wrenn won four of the first nine, but did not win thereafter. Merriman achieved his third victory of the night in the 14th race with Rammy Girl, reaching 658 -- one more than Napolitano's seasonal total after his double-digit day some 375 miles east southeast.

And then for good measure, Merriman duplicated Napolitano's nighttime Late Double by winning the 15th at Northfield with CMR Windmach, 'doubling' his seasonal advantage -- after Wednesday's racing, the score is Merriman 659, Napolitano 657, Wrenn 644.

On Thursday Pocono is dark, but Harrah's races in the afternoon. And it just so happens that Northfield is adding Thursday night racing to its schedule -- starting ... Thursday.

Keeping track of this battle will not be for the faint of heart.

(with files from PHHA/Pocono)

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