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Redemption Is 'G-Nap’s

Published: December 23, 2018 5:49 pm ET

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Longtime harness racing force George Napolitano Jr. has been profiled by Philadelphia Weekly, as the publication recently ran an item on the horseman’s story of redemption.

Napolitano’s numbers speak for themselves. He’s recorded almost 10,000 wins in the bike and more than 1,600 as a trainer. He’s steered horses to just under $85 million in purse winnings and has earned numerous driving titles over the years.

Napolitano is the first to admit that he pushed the limit earlier in his career. Fines came and his reputation took a beating, but it took a forced absence from the industry – and the tumultuous stint that followed – that led ‘G-Nap’ to where he is today.

Napolitano openly addresses the skeletons in his closet in the Philadelphia Weekly piece. In it, he broaches his positive tests from years ago and does not shy away from discussing his past struggles with sobriety. What has emerged from the profile is a story of survival, redemption and, to an extent, inner peace.

“I was suspended for so long, I had no choice but to turn my life around,” Napolitano said, in reference to a significant suspension that he was slapped with in 2007. “They took everything from me… I was living on the streets, it was without question a really scary point in my life.”

Napolitano has explained that some key instances and people in his life have helped lead him to where he is today: back in the sulky, back winning, and on the straight and narrow. In addition to mentioning the help of rehab stints, the horseman has cited a myriad of influencers as the prevailing factors in his successful return to harness racing. His wife, family and faith have kept him grounded, but Napolitano has also stated that the advice of an ex-con and the structured nature of harness racing life have been key.

“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, in reference to his years before sobriety. “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.”

Even though Napolitano is a changed man off the track, his competition had better keep its eye on him once the wings of the starting gate fold.

“The high I used to get doing drugs? I get that once the gate opens and I’m on a horse,” said Napolitano. “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.”

(With files from Philadelphia Weekly)

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