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Napolitano Brothers Dominate At Pocono

Published: July 23, 2016 11:19 pm ET

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On Saturday night (July 23) at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, Anthony Napolitano returned to nighttime sulky action for the first time since a racing accident here on May 31, and there were no signs of rust visible on his driving skills.

In fact, in races three through 10 at The Downs Saturday, if your last name wasn’t “Napolitano” you did not gain admittance to the winner's circle, as big brother George won five of the octet of contests, and Anthony triumphed in the other three

The last in this string of Napolitano victories went to George, again the winningest driver at the mountain oval, and the Rocknroll Hanover gelding Bushwacker in the $18,000 pacing feature, setting the pace and coming home with a pair of :27.2 back quarters to win in 1:50. Life wasn’t easy in the stretch for the 1-2 favourite, however, as Dreams Beachboy – and Anthony Napolitano – made a charge up the Pocono Pike, but came up a half-length short to the Chris Ryder trainee, who boosted his earnings to the very brink of half-million-dollar status -- $499,587 -- for owner Henderson Farms.

Anthony got revenge on George, and added a fourth winner on the night, by taking the $15,500 featured trot with Armor Hanover, an altered seven-year-old son of SJs Caviar who won in 1:52 to not only take a new mark but also equal the national season’s record. George set the pace with Cufflink Hanover, the favourite and a three-year-old taking on older stock, but “Armor” and Anthony blew right past them down the backstretch and went on to win by six lengths, with Valley Of Sin edging Cufflink Hanover for the deuce. Trainer Doug Berkeley has apparently found the key to the winner of two straight, who had made breaks in three of four starts before his current modest win string, and Doug shares ownership with Leslie Berkeley.

It looked as if the 1:48.4 posted by Soho in the first race, a $15,500 pace, would stand as the quickest mile of the night, but then in the 12th race, Andrew McCarthy, who swept the early Daily Double, then guided the Always A Virgin gelding Vague Traces to a scintillating win in 1:48.2, a new mark and not a bad mile for a horse who came east to be under Ross Croghan’s care five starts back and started out in “non-winners of $3,000 last five starts.” But the potential has always been there for Vague Traces -- he won his first baby qualifier in 1:55.2, as year-older stablemate Hes Watching looked on and nodded approvingly, and then last year at three he twice finished third behind two other Indiana-sired horses of some renown, Wiggle It Jiggleit and Freaky Feet Pete, as they traded late-season wins at Hoosier Park. Off this mile, with Vague Traces coming his own back half in :52.3, coverless brush to the lead included, and winning by seven and three-quarter lengths, the Phil Wiley-owned warrior might develop into a horse not out of place in this year’s magnificent Free-For-All crop, headed by the two aforenamed Hoosier horses -- and the one who was a year ahead of them, “Miki” something or other.

(And THEN … all of the above writing was finished as the 15th and final race was going to the gate, and what happened in that $14,000 trot? We kid you not -- the brothers Napolitano finished in a dead-heat for win, giving George six wins on the night and Anthony [he of the supposed “rust”] five! The camera was called on but could not separate George’s favoured Zooming and Anthony’s second choice Upfront Billy, who crossed the aperture of light together in 1:53.3, coming within three-fifths of a second of the world record for a “heater” on a five-eighth mile track and obliterating the old trot dead-heat mark at the only oval to have three triple–dead-heats for win in harness racing history.)


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