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WILKES-BARRE, PA - Straight Talk and Mad Man Hill are now 2-for-2 in the Bobby Weiss Series for sophomore pacing males after four $17,500 second round harness racing prelims were held Saturday afternoon at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Straight Talk was one of two Sweet Lou-sired winners trained by Ron Burke to take Weiss divisions; the colt left the field behind with a :26.4 third split under the direction of Matt Kakaley en route to taking a lifetime best of 1:51.4 for Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC, William Switala and James Martin. STRAIGHT TALK REPLAY   The other Burke Brigade member to win was the gelding Emblaze Hanover, who bounced back from a break in the first leg to also reduce his mark to 1:51.4 for driver Joe Bongiorno and the partnership of Burke Racing Stable LLC, Dr. Bridgette Jablonsky, Jason Melillo, and J&T Silva- Purnel & Libby. EMBLAZE HANOVER REPLAY   The Somebeachsomewhere colt Mad Man Hill, the only Weiss chalk to get home first, is perfect after two trips behind the gate this year as he came home in :55.4 to tie his mark of 1:52.4 for driver George Napolitano Jr., who had five winners on the card, trainer Chris Ryder, and owner Tom Hill. MAD MAN HILL REPLAY   The fastest Weiss winner was the American Ideal colt Trevor's Ace, who lowered his speed badge by four seconds as he impressed in 1:51 for driver Jason Bartlett, trainer Jean Drolet, and the ownership of Stephen Schneider, Bill Siegel, and Marthe Drolet. TREVOR'S ACE REPLAY   Babes Dig Me recorded the fastest mile of the season at Pocono when he posted a lifetime 1:49.4 best as he joined up with trainer Darren Taneyhill and owner Eric Provost after a claim. Jim Pantaleano sent the pacer zooming to the lead late on the backstretch around hard-used frontenders and had no problem in the latter stages. Another non-Weiss race deserves mention because it created some unusual numeric situations. Rockin Inthe Hills, who had been placed first at a $174.00 win mutuel two starts back, again didn't get much respect in his first start after a claim by trainer Dan Maier - and he came up the inside to win in 1:51.2 and return $51.80, becoming the first horse to pay $50+ twice this year. Also, the four-year-old American Rebel became the largest-priced claim in Pocono history, as owner William Emmons gave $50,000 to lead him back to the barn after the race. In all, twelve claims during the card produced $316,000 changing hands, sending the seasonal claiming total over $5 million via 275 transactions. (This was card 24.) The trotting males take over the Weiss spotlight for Sunday's twilight card, with four $17,500 divisions of their second preliminary round. Post time Sunday is 5 p.m.; program pages will be available at For full race results, click here. From the PHHA/The Downs

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono features harness racing announcer Jim Begivlia's Week In Review column. Here is the first edition. PACER OF THE WEEK: SCOTT ROCKS It's only fitting that this eleven-year-old gelding and career millionaire should win first Weekly Honors for 2021 at Pocono, as he has been the most successful horse at the track over the stretch he's been racing. This year Scott Rocks has been reborn as a claimer, starting on the lowest rungs of the ladder at the $10,000 level at Pocono on March 7. He won that race and then followed up with two more in a row as his claiming price went up each time. On Saturday, he faced off with the top claimers at Pocono, the $30,000 to $40,000 group, as a 1-5 favorite. George Napolitano Jr., who has been aboard Scott Rocks for the vast majority of his Pocono victories, guided him first-over in this one for a hard-fought victory in 1:51:3. Trained by Hunter Oakes, the gelding shows no signs of slowing down, even as he notched his 67th career win and pushed his career earnings over $1.1 million. Honorable Mention Pacers One Eight Hundred (Joseph Fonseca, Nancy Takter), who posted the fastest winning time in the Bobby Weiss series for three-year-old male pacers on Saturday in a career-best 1:50:2 despite it being his first start of the year. The Lady Sheriff (George Napolitano Jr., Darren Taneyhill), who became the first horse in the 2021 meet at Pocono to five wins when she scored her fifth victory in a row on Monday in a claiming handicap against other mares. Peggy J (Simon Allard, Jeff Sorenson), who captured her straight condition pace against mares on Tuesday at Pocono in 1:54:2. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: RICH AND MISERABLE This is another trotter who has a rich, so to speak, history at Pocono, once winning Trotter of the Year honors at the track. After breaking stride as a heavy favorite in his first start of the meet, Rich And Miserable, a six-year-old gelding trained by Todd Buter, bounced back strong with a win in the slop on March 28 in 1:56:3. In Sunday night's featured $11,200 trot, he was made the 1-9 favorite despite leaving from an outside post in a field of seven. By the 3/8-mile mark of the race, Rich And Miserable had taken the lead. He had to deal with a first-over effort from Blenheim on the back stretch, and then was pushed by pocket-sitting Wilberforce in the home stretch. But Rich And Miserable responded to the challenge under the guidance of driver Tyler Buter, with his second straight victory coming in a time of 1:54:2. Honorable Mention Trotters Top Me Off (Todd Schadel driver and trainer), who followed up a condition win with a victory on Saturday in the Weiss Series in 1:54:4, the fastest time of the day in the Weiss by male trotters. King Alphonso (Jim Pantaleano, Neil Balcerak), who won a condition trot at Pocono on Sunday in 1:53:2, the week's fastest trotting time. Tuis Shadow (Simon Allard, Donald Wiest), who stepped up in class on Tuesday and won his second straight condition trot at Pocono, this one in a career-best 1:55:3. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: HOOLIE N HECTOR This three-year-old trotter driven by Anthony Napolitano pulled off a surprise in the Bobby Weiss Series on Saturday at 19-1, paying off $41.80 on a $2 win ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: DEXTER DUNN Dunn was the dominant force in the Bobby Weiss Series this week, especially on Tuesday when he swept all three divisions for the three-year-old trotting fillies. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: LES GIVENS Givens had a day to remember on Monday, sending out three trainees at Pocono and winning with every one of them, including with Incaseyoudidntknow in the Bobby Weiss three-year-old pacing fillies' group. That will do it for this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at by Jim Beviglia, for The Downs                    

CHESTER, PA - Harrah's Philadelphia opened for its 2021 harness racing season on Friday, and it didn't take long for the 5/8-mile oval to revert to constantly rewarding the use of speedy race tactics, as in the twelve races eight winners were on the lead at the three-quarters and three were in the pocket. The other one was second to Papi Rob Hanover in his last start. The Somebeachsomewhere - Worldly Treasure four-year-old horse Father Nuno, the full brother to Captaintreacherous, was going for his first purse since the 2019 Governor's Cup Final. "Nuno" was unhurried early by driver George Napolitano, Jr. in the $12,800 curtainraiser's finale, moving his horse outside from fourth at the half, and the grinding journey against pacesetter P L Munson (:27.4, :56.2, 1:24.2) didn't bother the $360,000 yearling as he drew away in the stretch to win by 4 3/4 lengths in 1:53.1 on a cool day. This may be the first start in a redemptive campaign for the royally-bred stallion, who is owned and trained by brothers John and Tom Cancelliere. FATHER NUNO REPLAY   Otherwise, the determination of the drivers to get the lead and hold it if at all possible was reflected in the $11,600 co-featured pace, as there were two horses parked past the quarter in a six-horse field. Favored Rock The Town and driver Anthony Napolitano kept High Impression out in the air in a :27.1 quarter, with JK Musicman maintaining the pocket and Joesstar of Mia A ducking in off cover past the initial station. Rock The Town kept the lead to the half in :55.2, with High Impression finally getting to the rail midrace after JK Musicman broke, but the early exertion caused him to back off badly before the 1:24 three-quarters. Joesstar of Mia A continued a game pursuit of the leader, but he came up a half-length shy at the 1:52.3 finish against the winning altered son of Rocknroll Hanover, now a winner of two straight for trainer Darren Taneyhill and owner Mark Jakubik. Two-time Driver of the Year Dexter Dunn won three races on the card, with George Napolitano Jr. and Tim Tetrick, the local 2020 winningest driver and top UDR driver respectively, visiting Victory Lane twice. Trainer Jeff Cullipher was the only conditioner to send out two winning charges. The bettors were very sharp on Opening Day, with nine favorites and three second choices providing plenty of ticketcashing. Harrah's Philadelphia will not host a live card this Sunday, Easter Sunday, but after that the southeast Pennsylvania track's "regular schedule" kicks in, with racing on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 12:25 p.m. and Sunday at 12:40 p.m. Program pages will be available at For full race results, click here. From the PHHA/Harrah's Philadelphia    

WILKES-BARRE, PA - The perennial leading harness racing driver at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, George Napolitano Jr., won his third of the early-season Game Of Claims' five Championships, and owner William Emmons Jr. his second, when they combined behind the Explosive Matter gelding Explosive Magic for a 1:56.2 victory in Monday $30,000 Game Of Claims Trotting Series Championship for $15,000-base-price horses. Emmons and trainer Eric Ell claimed the winner of three out of his last four out of the series' second preliminary, and then had him sit out the final prelim, hoping his first and second in the initial two legs would get him into the final without risking him being claimed. The 1-2 finishes did advance him sufficiently - he was eighth in points of the top nine entrants - and Monday Explosive Magic showed no ill effects from the week off, sitting behind favored Golden Son through fractions of :27.4, :57.1, and 1:27, then charging home in the lane for a 1½ length victory over the chalk. He paid $11.80 to win. EXPLOSIVE MAGIC REPLAY   Emmons is also the owner of Glengarry Knight N, winner of his $50,000 Game Of Claims Championship, and currently third among all North American pacers in 2021 earnings. Two horses eligible to April's $700,000 Bobby Weiss Series, which features developing sophomores in four divisions divided by sex and gait, scored impressive wins on the undercard. The Always B Miki pacing colt Stellar Yankee won in his first start for trainer Gilbert Garcia-Herrera and owner Gilbert Garcia-Owen, taking a new mark of 1:55.2 with "George Nap" driving. Stellar Yankee was entered right back to be in his group's first preliminary this Saturday; the Art Major pacing colt Major Bean, coming off a 25-day layoff while debuting for trainer Scott Di Domenico, did not enter Saturday, but his 1:54.2 win here for driver Matt Kakaley and the ownership of Triple D Stables Inc. and Richard and Farrell Carey hints he may be a factor later in the series. For full race results, click here. From the PHHA/The Downs

CHESTER, PA - The harness racing trotters and pacers went behind the starting gate at Harrah's Philadelphia for the first time in 2021 on Friday, with eight qualifiers held a week before the track's Opening Day of Friday, April 2. The fastest winner was the full brother to Captaintreacherous, the Somebeachsomewhere - Worldly Treasure four-year-old Father Nuno, who won in 1:53.3 under the guidance of George Napolitano Jr. for trainer Tom and owner/brother John Cancelliere. The royally-bred pacer's last purse start was in the Governor's Cup as a two-year-old, where he was second to Papi Rob Hanover; he qualified twice in June last year but never started, and this was his first racetrack appearance since those qualifiers. The wife/husband team of driver Jackie and trainer Frank Ingrassia signaled their barn was ready for the start of the Philly season by sending out two trotters who wired their fields: the Andover Hall sophomore colt Ceffyl Dwr, a stakes winner at two, who won in 1:58.2, and the veteran Crazed gelding Izoh, home in 1:58. Jackie Ingrassia shares ownership of Ceffyl Dwr (named after a magical horse in Welsh folklore) with Donna Franchetti and Thomas Doran; that combination also owns Izoh along with Arden Homestead Stable. There will be qualifiers at Harrah's again next Tuesday, with declarations due by 10 a.m. on Monday. Next Tuesday also will be the day of the first draw of the year, for the Friday, April 2 card, with entries for this program due by 9 a.m. The basic schedule at Harrah's Philadelphia will remain Wednesday-Thursday-Friday racing at 12:25 p.m., and Sunday racing at 12:40 p.m. One immediate variation in that schedule will come on Sunday, April 4, Easter Sunday, when there will not be a live card. Program pages will be available throughout the meet at From the PHHA/The Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - Broadway Bruiser and Credit Fraud both became two-time harness racing winners in the Game Of Claims Trotting Series for $15,000-level horses on a Monday afternoon at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, where the temperature cracked the freezing mark only near the end of the card. Those two horses shared a couple of other traits, too: they were both driven to victory by a Napolitano, with each horse retaining the brother who won with them last week; they did this despite the fact that both were claimed out of their first prelim round; and both will again be moving to a new barn via claim after their triumphs in $15,000 divisions Monday. Broadway Bruiser, an altered son of Muscle Mass, was slightly the faster of the two, winning in 1:57.1 for George Napolitano Jr., whose three victories gave him fifteen for the Saturday-Sunday-Monday local racing week. Credit Fraud, a Jailhouse Jesse mare, went in 1:57.3 with Anthony Napolitano in the sulky.   Neither was the fastest winner in the series today: that honor went to the Cantab Hall gelding Willie B Worthy ("Anthony Nap"), who turned the tables over her first round conqueror Explosive Magic ("George Nap") with a neck decision in 1:57. Both of those horses will reside in a new barn after a claim. The other series winner Monday was Adagio De La Tour, an altered son of Lillum Madrik who triumphed in 1:57.1 for driver Matt Kakaley after finishing second in the first leg. He is the only one of this week's winners who did not change hands, going back to trainer Ron Burke and the partnership of Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC after they claimed him last week. It will be interesting to see if the French-bred's connections try keeping him out of next Monday's final preliminary round (and the claiming box), hoping his first and second will get him a spot in his Championship. Love The Action was the only horse to try that tactic in the many Game Of Claims Pacing Series earlier, and he squeezed into his final in the ninth and last slot one point ahead of the AE1 horse, and then promptly triumphed in his Championship. In all, nine horses in the Series will live in a new environment after their races Monday, after fifteen were taken out of the first leg. Monday's claiming action brought the week's totals to 38 claims for $637,000, and the meet's to 191 transactions for $3,407,855 in thirteen cards. For complete results, click here. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - The perennial "king" of the driving colony at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, George Napolitano Jr., is serving early notice that he will be tough to dethrone in 2021, posting his second straight card of six winning races on Sunday. The double sextet now gives George a 38-31 advantage over his brother Anthony, and quick math shows the pair has won 41% of all races held at the mountain track during the first twelve days of the meet. Two of George's six-bagger came for trainer Gilbert Garcia-Herrera, who now has nine visits to the Pocono winners circle this year, one more than Jennifer Bongiorno and Dan Maier. The pair's most impressive hookup of the night was with the Art Major mare Crazy Cute, who had had 80 days since her last race, but still was able to set the pace and come home in :55.2 to win in 1:53.4. The triumph for the partnership of Garcia-Herrera and Barbara Arnstine was the fastest clocking of the twilight card.   Perhaps the most impressive mile in the flirting-with-freezing conditions was turned in by the Caviar Crown gelding Wilberforce, who made every pole a winning one for driver Jim Morrill Jr. in trotting to a 1:55.3 triumph. Trainer Kris Rickert co-owns the winner of $347,554 with Dale Wareham. Fourteen of the fifteen horses claimed out of the first round of the Game Of Claims Trotting Series for $15,000-base-priced horses, including three of the four winners, are scheduled to go to the gate Monday afternoon for their new connections in four $15,000 second round prelims. Monday's first post is 12:30 p.m.; program pages are available at From the PHHA/The Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - The sister-brother team of trainer Jennifer Bongiorno and driver Joe Bongiorno took the Saturday afternoon spotlight at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, combining for three victories, although the Downs's all-time leading driver, George Napolitano Jr., earned some glory as well with six winning drives. The Bongiornos combined with the Mach Three gelding J M Mandamin, unraced since December 26 and yet still ready in his 2021 debut to put on a powerful performance, winning in 1:50.3, the fastest mile of the year locally and just a tick off his mark taken here last season. Robert Weinstein saw his gelding bring his lifetime earnings to six figures with the triumph.       Jennifer and Joe also teamed up to take two of the three tri-featured $16,000 claiming handicap paces, with Weinstein also the owner of A Real Miracle, a son of Real Desire who like his stablemate "J M" used a big backstretch move en route to victory in 1:51.4. The Bongiornos' other winner, the American Ideal gelding American Rebel, also had the bad luck of a first-up trip, but American Rebel was strong and took a new mark of 1:52 while raising his bankroll over $200,000 for owners Evan Katz and Frank Canzone.   The other high-level claiming pace went to George Napolitano Jr., sulkysitting for trainer David Russo and owner Marissa Russo, behind the Mach Three gelding Tullow N, rallying him off cover to take a 1:53.2 decision and paying a very un-"George Nap"-like $41.60 to win - although in his other victory of the year, Tullow N paid $69.80.       Though none of the feature winners were claimed Saturday, eighteen more horses headed back to a new barn after their race, with $372,000 spent in search of sharp stock. After eleven days, Pocono has seen 171 claims amalgamating to a figure of $3,142,875. With her trio of winners Jennifer Bongiorno joined Dan Maier at the head of the local conditioners' list with eight successes. George Napolitano Jr. reclaimed his usual spot atop the Downs's driving colony, though brother Anthony is very close at 32-30. Sunday's racing card begins at 5 p.m.; Monday's 12:30 program will feature the second Game Of Claims Trotting Series prelim for $15,000 base-price horses. Program pages are available at For full race results, click here.   From PHHA/Pocono Downs  

WILKES-BARRE PA - The Game Of Claims Series lived on during the Monday afternoon card at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono - it just shifted gaits to the trot, where four fields of $15,000-base-priced harness racing horses raced $15,000 divisions in their first preliminary leg. While the gait shifted, other recent aspects of the Game Of Claims series remained firmly in place. The Napolitano brothers, Anthony and George Jr., each drove two of the four series winners, and each handled a horse who divided honors for fastest split at 1:55.4. And there were plenty of claims out of the initial trot gathering as well - fifteen of the twenty-nine entrants left the Pocono paddock to head back to new barns, including all four winners. The quickest first prelim winners were the Lucky Chucky gelding Namje, who was powerful from a pocket trip, by George, to win by 5¾ lengths after coming in from Saratoga, and the Explosive Matter gelding Explosive Magic, who made an early pace-controlling move for Anthony en route to a five-length decision. The other Game Of Claims winners were Credit Fraud, a Jailhouse Jesse mare who grinded to a 1:56.4 victory for Anthony, and the Muscle Mass gelding Broadway Bruiser, hone in 1:57.4 with George doing the sulkysitting. For the day, "Anthony Nap" crossed the wire first six times, George four, putting Anthony ahead of his brother 29-26 after ten cards of racing at The Downs in 2021. The frenzied claiming box activity for the Game Of Claims trotters raised the total of horses haltered during the week to 27, with $437,500 paid out; for the meet, there have already been 153 claims put through, with $2,770,875 changing hands. There is likely to be much more claiming activity the next two weeks, especially among the series trotters, as everyone tries to have a sharp horse to enter in the $30,000 Championship on Monday the 29th. For full race results, click here. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs  

WILKES-BARRE, PA - The Bettor's Delight gelding Love The Action, who sat out last week's Game Of Claims Pacing Series final preliminary for $10,000-based harness racing pacers after posting a second and a first, got into the final as the last of nine qualifying horses, one point ahead of the AE1, and then he made the wait worthwhile by winning the $20,000 Series Championship in 1:53.4 on Sunday at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Claimed by trainer Gilbert Garcia-Herrera and owner Gilbert-Garcia Owen from his series triumph, Love The Action was sent off the 6-5 favorite, and driver George Napolitano Jr. was very aggressive with him, hanging Bamski to a :26.4 opening number, then reclaiming command by the :55.4 half. Second choice Sweet Talkin Satin, the only horse at any level of the series to win all three of his prelims, came the rough first-over trip to the 1:24.1 three-quarters and pressured the leader into the stretch. Love The Action, though, would find his biggest challenge in the lane to his inside in pocketsitter Bamski, driven by George's brother Anthony - indeed, it looked like Bamski had gotten the slightest of advantages past midstretch. But the gritty winner would not be denied, fighting back to beat his left-hand rival by a neck, with Sweet Talkin Satin hanging on admirably for third.   In the $15,000 Game Of Claims Championship for $7500-tagged horses, driver Marcus Miller "broke up the Napolitanos," who had won the initial three finals, sending the Art Major gelding Stick With Cramer up the Pocono Pike to get a 1:55 triumph. Claimed after the first leg by owner/trainer Shea Lare, the winner now has turned in two wins and a second for his conditioner - whose UTR lifetime is .852, as this is the first horse the 19-year-old has trained and owned! Miller put Stick With Cramer in perfect pocket position early, as Needless To Say shot to the top and forced foes to either tuck, as did top two choices R Gauwitz Hanover (George Napolitano Jr.) and Don'tcallmefrancis (Anthony Napolitano), or be hung out, as was Onlythetuffsurvive through early fractions of :27.2 and :57. The two favorites, both double prelim winners, swept around the tiring parked horse down the back, with "Francis" first-over at the 1:26 three-quarters and "R Gawuitz" right behind him. In the stretch, R Gauwitz Hanover tipped right for a path - and Stick With Cramer tipped left, with the latter outpacing the former by a nose, with Dontcallmefrancis very good to hold on for third.   This brought to an end the Game Of Claims events for pacers - but the claiming series action is right back in gear on Monday, with four $15,000 divisions of the first preliminary for $15,000 base-priced trotters. Post time for the Monday card is 12:30 p.m.; program pages are available at For full results, click here. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - Glengarry Knight N, a double harness racing winner in the preliminaries of the Game Of Claims Pacing Series for $25,000 base-claiming-price level, came off of cover and just caught American Rebel to take the richest purse of the year to date at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, $50,000, in winning his series Championship in 1:52.3. A Real Miracle streaked to the early lead in the contest, rejecting the bid of favored Melanie's Tedy for the front spot and forcing that one to tuck in, then letting stablemate American Rebel go to the top past a :27.1 quarter. The last-named pacer hit the half in :56, with Melanie's Tedy forced to accept first-over duties and Glengarry Knight N following his cover under the guidance of Anthony Napolitano. Near the 1:23.4 three-quarters the chalk stopped gaining and A Real Miracle backed off, letting American Rebel get a clear lead, but Glengarry Night N swung off his dull cover and tried determinedly to the wire, just catching the game pacesetter in the final steps, with the official margin a head.   The victorious altered son of Changeover made quite a debut for trainer William Adamczyk and owner William Emmons, as they claimed Glengarry Knight N for $30,000 last week (progressive prices in series). They are now the braintrust behind the second-richest North American harness horse of 2021 at press time, as the winner pushed his seasonal bankroll to $53,760. "A Napolitano-driven winner coming off two preliminary wins and joining a new barn" also summarized the story in the $30,000 Game Of Claims Championship for $15,000 base-priced horses, as George Napolitano Jr. kept Sunset Braydon clear in the lane for trainer/owner Jordan Derue (who claimed him for $20,000 last week) in 1:52.4. Cash Is King emerged with the early lead with Shoreview on the outside, but a major wrinkle came at the quarter when Royal Heart, the winner of this level's Championship last year, made a break at the :26.3 quarter trying to keep the pocket closed. Shoreview thus got in the two-hole, and the coast was clear for George Nap to come brushing with the favored Sunset Braydon, that horse making the lead well before the :55 half. A long uncovered move by Fernado stalled at the 1:23.2 three-quarters, and that fact coincided with Cash Is King not keeping the pocket filled, allowing the winning Always A Virgin gelding to open a clear margin on the far turn. No one could get near him in the lane, with Just Plain Loco swinging wide to get second behind the winner of half his eight seasonal starts.   The Sunday 5 p.m. card at The Downs will feature the $20,000 Game Of Claims Championship for $10,000-tagged horses and the $15,000 finale for $7500 claiming stock. On Monday, trotters will take up the Game Of Claims mantle, as $15,000-priced horses will go in four $15,000 divisions of their first preliminary. Program pages are available at Though there was no claiming from the series Championships; nonetheless eight horses did change hands during the card for $165,000. And the Napolitano brothers dominated the driving ranks for the card as they did in the series Championships, with Anthony winning five races and George four. For full results, click here. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - Harness racing reinsman George Napolitano Jr. drove three of the four winners in $10,000 second preliminary round action of the Game Of Claims Pacing Series for $10,000-base price horses on the Sunday twilight card at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. However, he's not assured of a drive next week behind any of them - because all three of them were claimed here, as they were last week. The base claiming price went up to $12,500 for this prelim of the progressively-priced pace, but slips were in for the two repeaters. The faster of the two double winners was the Always A Virgin gelding Sweet Talkin Satin, home strongly in 1:53 with the temperature below freezing for one-week trainer Gilbert Garcia-Herrera and owner Gilbert Garcia-Owen.   That last-named duo also lost another new charge of a week, the Bettor's Delight gelding Love The Action, who followed up a second last time with a victory in this week's fastest time among all the Sunday claimers, 1:52.1 - a new lifetime mark by almost four seconds. The other repeat winner at this level, also changing barns after a seven- day stay, was the American Ideal gelding Myidealson N, who toured the Pocono oval in 1:54 for "George Nap," trainer Brianne Good, also co-owner with Phillip Fluet Stable LLC. In five $7500 divisions of Game Of Claims action for $7500-base horses (tagged for $9000 this week with the progression), the Well Said gelding Rojan's Way was the only repeat winner, overcoming the brutal first-over journey to win in 1:54.3 for driver Anthony Napolitano, trainer Marta Piotrow, and owner Melvin Fink. But although his connections got two Series prelim wins from him, Rojan's Way won't give them a third prelim success, as he too was taken back to a new home after a claim. Despite the increase in purchase price for the weekend's second series prelim, 37 more horses changed homes via the claiming box, for an outlay of $681,375. In the four Game Of Claims cards (last Saturday-Sunday and this), there were a total of 97 claims, ringing up $1,682,875. George Napolitano Jr. had four wins on the night to head the sulky colony. FINISHING LINES - Pocono will be staging its first Monday card of the year at 12:30. Monday racing will continue at that time through the end of the meet, which comes on October 30. For full results, click here. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - The Game Of Claims Pacing Series' first preliminary round was again featured during the Sunday twilight harness racing program at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, on this card featuring horses with base tags of $7500 and $10,000 in their respective competitions. Once again, the claiming box was the subject of much attention, with 19 more horses changing hands on Sunday. This raised the total for the Saturday-Sunday cards to 60 horses moving to new homes, with the final amount paid out for competitive horses in the lucrative series rising to $1,001,500 during the two days. And as happened Saturday, the lower level of the program's competition produced the fastest mile in the Game Of Claims races. The Dali gelding Durant dominated his competition with a 1:54 triumph, making the lead in front of the stands for George Napolitano Jr. (who led the drivers with three sulky successes) and winning by two lengths. Unfortunately for trainer Robert Lounsbury and owner Margaret Olmstead, Durant was the only winner from the six $7500 purse events for his caliber who was claimed from Sunday's racing.   Three out of the four winners in the $10,000 events for $10,000 base-tag pacers changed hands after their racetrack exertions. George Napolitano Jr. drove one of these victorious horses, one who shared the quickest clocking at this level, 1:54.1 - the American Ideal gelding Myidealson N, who went out a winner for trainer Matias Ruiz and the Friendship Stables LLC. George also handled the one $10,000 success who did not change barns, the Somebeachsomewhere gelding P-Drive Hanover, who also stopped the clock at 1:54.1 for trainer Gilbert Garcia-Herrera and owner Gilbert Garcia-Owen. With everybody coming from other raceways for opening weekend and with many horses coming off of layoffs, only four favorites won on each card Saturday and Sunday, and the average win payoff for the weekend was $16.75. For full results, click here.  From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

WILKES BARRE, PA - The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono will be looking for more cooperation from the weather this weekend after losing its opening day card to the aftermath of a snowstorm last Saturday. This weekend the northeast Pennsylvania track is planning to race on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m., with 14 races on each program. The weekend features will be the opening preliminary rounds of the popular Game Of Claims Pacing Series, where four levels of competitively-priced opponents contest three prelim legs trying to earn their way into a rich Championship on the weekend of March 3-4. On the Saturday card, there will be seven $25,000 divisions of the series for $25,000 base-price claimers and four $15,000 cuts of competition for $15,000-tagged horses. Sunday will see the first prelims for $7500- and $10,000-priced horses. Among the horses carrying a $25,000 tag Saturday, most of the divisions are hard to figure out, especially the tenth race section, where American Rebel, a former stakes performer who ended his 2020 with a first- or second-place finish in his last five starts, begins from post four for trainer Jennifer Bongiorno after an easy qualifying win at The Meadowlands. Tough opposition could come from Da Magician, who has won three of his last four starts for this price at Dover, but must here solve post seven for trainer Les Givens. Royal Heart was the winner of the Game Of Claims Championship for $15,000-valued horses in 2020, and he draws the rail in the sixth race division for horses entered for that price; trainer Clay Faurot Jr.'s horse faces a tough task in that he hasn't raced in over two months. Nine Ways, no stranger to eastern Pennsylvania, may turn out to be the favorite in this contest, as he ships in off a blazing 1:52 victory against this type at Ohio's Miami Valley Raceway; he'll start from post three for trainer Dan Maier. The draw for the Sunday card will take place Tuesday, with a 9 a.m. closing of the entry box. FINISHING LINES - The Downs also held its first qualifiers of the 2021 campaign on Monday. The pacer Redbank Blaze A posted the fastest time, 1:53.4, for Pocono's perennial leading driver George Napolitano Jr. and trainer Jose Godinez, each had three wins during the morning session. On the trot, P L Notsonice, an Ontario Sire Stakes winner at three, showed herself ready for her four-year-old campaign by winning in 1:57.1 for trainer/driver Renaldo Morales III. ... Pocono will hold qualifying races this Wednesday; declare by Tuesday at 11 a.m. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - Saturday afternoon's final card of 2020 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono contained the lure of a $239,000+ carryover into a mandatory distribution of the Rainbow Pick 5 pool for picking the winners of the last five races of the year. With anticipation of a nice payoff no matter whether a chalkplayer or longshot fancier, bettors poured $441,661 into the Rainbow Pick 5 pool, so that after the percentage deduction on the day's play, the pool distributed (carryover and "fresh money") reached $614,889. Only two of the nine favorites in races run before the Pick 5 events had emerged victorious, but those fortunes started to turn when favored Benson Boys N rallied strongly out of the two-hole to take a 1:50.4 lifetime mark in the $16,000 claiming handicap pacing feature. Hunter Oakes guided the winner of three straight for trainer Steve Brabrook and owner Alan Johnston, and the favorite paid $6.00 to win in the first Pick 5 contest.   Two more favorites followed in the next two Pick 5 events, with Anthony Napolitano guiding a $4.60 winner and brother George behind a $2.60 heavy chalk. 4-5 favorite Scootnroll, 10 for 12 in his career before the race, made a break at the start of the fourth event, but "form" players received some consolation from Billy Lincoln N, who won and paid $6.60 as the second choice. The second choice also came through in the finale to the tune of a $7.20 win mutuel. The winning combination of 5-(2,3)-4-3-4 (the #3 was scratched from the second leg, and the substituted favorite won) returned $143.58 per 20-cent investment in the giant pool. Doubtless some players forming large numbers of combination tickets had multiple "hits" with the races so living up to form, so many people found a good chunk of gold at the end of this Rainbow. The total handle on the Pocono closing day handle was added up to $845,976, with a bit over half of that brought in by the mandatory Rainbow Pick 5 payoff. Speaking of continued form, George Napolitano Jr. took his ninth straight sulky dashwinning championship and the fourteenth of his unparalleled career at The Downs, winning four on closing day to boost his yearly total to 212. His 14-4-4-0 scorecard after driving every race actually boosted his seasonal UDR to .380 with rounding up - in that category he now has seven crowns in a row and twelve overall. (George was also winningest trainer at Pocono five times.) Finally, with everything else that Ron Burke has won in recent years, Saturday saw him win his first training title in Pocono annals, with a winner on the closing card boosting his 2020 total to 67 during the 86-day meeting. From the PHHA / The Downs

Pompano Beach, FL — George Napolitano Sr., 96, passed peacefully at his home on Saturday (Nov. 7) after enjoying a life with horses for three-quarters of a century. At the age of 12 and 13, he, along with his father, Joseph, broke mustangs as wagon pulling horses used for the delivery of fruits and vegetables. Married at the age of 17, George soon thereafter served his country in World War II and, upon returning from active duty, resumed his love affair with the horse community, becoming a Standardbred trainer in the mid-1950s at Roosevelt Raceway. The patriarch of one the most successful racing families in Florida became interested in owning racehorses in the late 1950s when he and wife, Carmela, bought Flying Scotchman at a Yonkers sale. He was a member of the Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association and the United States Trotting Association. He was inducted into the Florida Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association Hall of Fame in 2012. George is preceded in death by his loving wife of 76 years, Carmela; and his only son, Joseph. He is survived by his four daughters, 15 grandchildren, 30 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. Services will be at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Church, 1400 S. State Road 7, North Lauderdale, FL 33068 at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday (Nov. 12). From the Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association

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