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“Don’t look back. Something may be gaining on you.” -- Leroy “Satchel” Paige, legendary Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Harrisburg, PA --- Mr. Paige, this is Aaron Merriman and Ronnie Wrenn Jr. Ronnie, Aaron -- this is Mr. Satchel Paige, Hall of Fame baseball pitcher and icon. He is the author of the quote that starts this story. And the “something” he refers to is named George Napolitano Jr. For most of 2015, a casual glance at the leading dashwinning drivers in North America might have given you “déjà vu all over again,” as another baseball legend noted. Aaron Merriman has had the lead in the standings, with Ronnie Wrenn Jr. right behind. This is exactly the same scenario as happened in 2014, when Merriman led until the final days of the year, then saw Wrenn make a tremendous late push to secure himself his second straight North American title. But over the last three-plus months, a new wrinkle has emerged. (Well, not exactly new -- he was third behind “Double A” and “Ronnie” in 2014, and was national champion in 2010.) But the graph below shows what is meant by “a power move in the middle of the race”: MONTHLY AND SEASONAL TOTALS                                     AARON MERRIMAN   GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR.   RON WRENN JR.     Month Year   Month Year   Month Year                     end of April     290     124     263 May   66 356   101 225   78 341 June   70 426   77 302   61 402 July   79 505   100 402   67 469 August   63 568   106 508   62 531 September   52 620   92 600   75 606 Oct. 1-11   28 648   43 643   23 629 That’s right -- “George Nap,” 166 victories off Merriman’s lead at the end of April, has narrowed the gap to five after the racing of Sunday (Oct. 11). Wrenn has stayed within 20 or so victories of the lead throughout the year -- but now he finds himself looking up at two people, not one. And Napolitano shows no signs of present abatement, as the October numbers posted above show. A brief background: Merriman and Wrenn both have a base at Northfield Park in Cleveland. Wrenn has 488 seasonal victories there as of Oct. 11, Merriman 401, though their UDRs are practically the same (Wrenn .398, Merriman. 396). Where Merriman has gotten his edge is by doing “double duty,” also racing regularly at The Meadows near Pittsburgh, where he is in fourth place with 209 wins, behind perennial leader Dave Palone and the “second-third interchangers,” Mike Wilder and Tony Hall. The double duty sometimes means Merriman misses the last few races at The Meadows or the first few at Northfield; interestingly, the same thing happens with Napolitano. Napolitano’s season has one focus: a 100-mile strip of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and its Northeast Extension, between The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono (which races in 2015 from March 21 to Nov. 21, at night) and Harrah’s Philadelphia (which races March 20 to Dec. 11, during the day). During the eastern PA winter hiatus, Napolitano has in the recent past been going to his “official USTA” home in Florida, where he races a much-reduced, intermittent schedule at Pompano (he had 26 wins between the end of 2014 at Philly and its 2015 opening, with only 85 drives in 21 cards raced). But what a focus he has had in the Keystone State in 2015, by George! He had 100 or more wins in three different months (May, July, and August), and he had 10 winners in one day three times (July 26, Aug. 16, and Sept. 16). Between Philly and Pocono, there have been 124 cards between July 1 and Oct. 11; George has participated in 121 cards, and he has had at least one victory on 118 of those cards (97.5 percent). He is the runaway leading dashwinner at both tracks; at Pocono this will be his ninth win title, breaking a mark he shares with Bill Lambertus. This spectacular success rate has enabled Napolitano to get into the thick of the discussion of the North American sulky leadership. If he would have a couple of weeks producing at his current rate, it would not be a surprise to see George Napolitano at the top of the charts soon. Postscript “Objects in the rear view mirror may appear larger than they actually are.” --- A song by Meat Loaf, among other things Having said all of the above, it does not seem likely that George Napolitano Jr. will wind up as North American driving champion in 2015. Pocono raced its last Friday of the season this past weekend; there will be racing only on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday until season’s end, 18 more cards. Philly has four cards a week the rest of October, then reduces to three a week up to the final week of its season, 31 more cards. So Napolitano has fewer than 50 racing days left in his prime time. Even if he wins at his per-card rate since July 1 of 2.88, that would mean 141 more wins this season, 784 in all (if he can maintain this breakneck pace). George did not drive at Pompano at all from Dec. 14 of last year until Jan. 17 of this year. Merriman has his regular doubleheaders; Wrenn has been known for supplementing his Northfield total with day excursions to other pari-mutuel ovals (especially in his native Michigan, where he has 57 wins this year). And just for one example, Wrenn won more than 100 races last December alone in wrestling the win crown from Merriman in the final days. So, Mr. Paige, thank you for your counsel. It’s usually never a good idea to focus on what may be behind -- it’s always what’s up front, the pursuit of the next goal, that is the primary motivating force. I think these three talented “youthful veterans” would thank you and agree with you -- and they’ll go out and give North American harness fans some real excitement as the clock on 2015 winds down. by Jerry Connors  Jerry Connors is a freelance writer living in Pennsylvania and was recently voted into the Communicators Hall of Fame. The views contained in this column are that of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of the United States Trotting Association.

Mach It So, the veteran Mach Three gelding coming off a late-charging victory in the Quillen Memorial at Harrington, used speedy tactics Saturday night at the harness racing meeting at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, overcoming less-than-ideal conditions and a good field to take the $24,000 featured pace in 1:49.4.   Driver Andrew McCarthy sent Mach It So to the lead after the 27.1, and the career winner of $1.09M took it from there, putting up middle splits of 55.3 and 1:22.4, then booking home in 27 over a good track in 46 temperatures to win by six lengths for trainer Jeff Bamond Jr. and Bamond Racing LLC.   The winner certainly seems to like the Pocono surface -- he took his mark of 1:48 here last year, and he certainly doesn't seem to mind traveling, now having consecutive wins at Mohawk, Harrington, and Pocono.   Scott Rocks, who had a series of "close but no cigar" finishes in his most recent starts prior to the $20,000 co-feature, finally got home first by using pocket rocket tactics under the guidance of George Napolitano Jr. to tally in 1:50.2 for trainer Chris Oakes and owners Susan Oakes and Chuck Pompey.   The winner was the fourth on the card for "George Nap," giving him 15 trips to Victory Lane in the first three days of October, an average of 3.75 wins per card (two at Philly and two here).   Jerry Connors  

After having only one card rained out since the end of June, the 2015 Pennsylvania Fair Circuit came to a squishy end here this week, with two of the three cards lost - the two-year-olds raced Tuesday, but the three-year-olds were washed out Wednesday and then the time-honored Bloomsburg Stakes for both age groups were cancelled today (Thursday).   The racing for freshmen on Tuesday gave some regular winners another chance to shine, the best example of which would be the Moonbeam - DVC Iblieveinangels pacing miss Unbeamlievable, who made it 12 straight and 14-13-1-0 along the twicearound trail this year with a 2:04 - 29 triumph.   Team Shaw - owner Mason, trainer Jason, and driver Chris - will take its second straight blanket in the 2PF category (the blanket for highest pointearner during the season is presented at the annual Fair Dinner following the USTA District meeting) after winning with Tropical Terror last year; Unbeamlievable also amassed the highest pointcount among any fair competitor.   On the sidewheeling colt side, the Well Said - Lionness Hanover colt Well Lets See did his best to take the top spot by running his summerlong total to 14-11-1-2 with a 2:05.2 - 28.2 win for driver Brandon Givens, trainer Kevin Lare, and owner Frank Chick.   But he was edged out at the top by Billy's Falcon (14-11-3-0), despite that one finishing second to Wagon Master, a Western Terror - Free At Last K colt who has stamped himself as a major factor for the October 10 Championship with his sixth triumph in his last eight fair trips to the gait for owner Bob Key, trainer Mike Gillock, and driver Brady Brown.   Starting from the trailing post seven, Billy's Falcon had to brush in 29.1 in the second quarter to go to the lead around Wagon Master, with that one having enough in the stretch to come back on and conquer his main foe in 2:01.1.   The Yankee Glide - Keystone Sirena trotting gelding Keystone Shotgun earned his divisional title after a 15-7-5-0 campaign by winning in 2:04.3 - 29.4 for Team Vivid Photo: owner-trainer-driver Roger Hammer and co-owner Todd Schadel.   But this division is probably the most contentious of all, with any of a half-dozen horses having a shot at the big money.   A Little Laid Back (15-12-2-0) had already clinched the trotting filly crown, but the winners at Bloomsburg were a reminder that she'll have to work to get to Victory Lane: they were the Great George Two - Bank Star miss Mckean County, 6-1-0 in her last eight starts, who won here in 2:04.4 - 1:00.2 - 30 over A Little Laid Back for driver Wayne Long and trainer John McMullen Jr., co-owner with Michele Mc Mullen; and Connie Jean, a Cantab Hall - Eclat Hanover filly who brought her fair record to 10-7-1-0 with a 2:06.3 score for trainer/driver Todd Schadel, who in partnership with The Estate Of George F Hempt Trust just purchased the filly from a group headed by newly-elected Hall of Famer Charles Keller III. (A Little Laid Back can take some comfort from the fact that she won her division's pointstandings for the second straight year for Team Hammer, following in the hoofprints of Peolesayimnogood - who was the only sophomore who repeated from being last year's pointsleader).   Here is a list of the eight PA Fair Sire Stakes blanketwinners - a group which has a distinctly red and blue (with gold trim) hue to it:   2TC - Keystone Shotgun, 15-7-5-0, longest winning streak (LWS) 4 of 5, owned by Roger Hammer and Todd Schadel, trained by Hammer;   2TF - A Little Laid Back (top trotting pointwinner overall), 15-12-1-0, LWS 6, owned and trained by Roger Hammer;   2PC - Billy's Falcon, 14-11-3-0, LWS 5, owned and trained by Roger Hammer;   2PF - Unbeamlievable (top pointwinner overall, the second straight year her stable has taken that title after 2PC Nippy's feat last year, and after stablemate Tropical Terror's 2014 win of this division), 14-13-1-0, LWS 12, owned by Mason Shaw and trained by his father Jason;   3TC - Wimborne Hanover (the only Championship winner at 2 winning the point title at 3, and also matching stablemate's Fly Past Hanover's 3YO point title last year), 13-10-1-1, LWS 6, owned by Susan Daugherty and trained by Bill Daugherty Jr.;   3TF - Peoplesayimnogood (the only 2YO point champion repeating at three), 12-7-3-0, LWS 5, owned and driven by Roger Hammer;   3PC - R N Nate (biggest point accumulator among 3YOs), 12-10-2-0, LWS 7, owner and trained by Roger Hammer;   3PF - Betterthanrevenge, 11-8-1-2, LWS 8, owned by Thomson Sisters Racing Stable and trained by Harold Brocklehurst.   And lastly, the top ten trainers and drivers of the 2015 Fair Circuit (corroborating the above).   DRIVERS TRAINERS Roger Hammer 86              Roger Hammer 81 Chris Shaw 61                     Jason Shaw 47 Brandon Givens 48             Todd Schadel 34 Brady Brown 45                   Steve Schoeffel 30 Todd Schadel 32                 Kevin Lare 20 Wayne Long 21                   Mike Gillock 19 Aaron Johnston 14              Bill Daugherty Jr. 17 Steve Schoeffel 14              Harold Brocklehurst 12 Harold Brocklehurst 12      Gary Johnston 12 Shawn Johnston 12            Sam Beegle 11   Jerry Connors  

Where a nonfavorite won ... and the Exacta paid $3.60?   9-10 Wakizashi Hanover beat 3-5 Freaky Feet Pete at the harness racing meeting at Hoosier Park last night ... and the Exacta paid $3.60 ... LESS than the winner!   And while I have your attention, ...   After Wednesday at 11:59:59 pm, will be DEAD, after 13½ years of loyal service to the U.S. Harness Writers Association.   A larger company has purchased PAOnline, and they are discontinuing private e-mail service through their subsidiary.   We have sent up the new USHWA e-mail address to be   It will become active on October 1.   Jerry Connors                                                                                                                                      

The trotter Boffin and the pacer Bushwacker went their respective $24,000 featured events Saturday night at the harness racing meeting at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, on a night full of interesting storylines.   Both the feature winners were "pocket rockets" en route to victory.   First up was the 5YO Donato Hanover gelding Boffin, a 7-5 second choice who parlayed a two-hole journey behind 6-5 favorite Ray Hall into a 2¼ length victory in 1:51.1, a national season's record, a personal best, and only 3/5 of a second off his division's world record of 1:50.3, set by Sevruga here three years ago.   Ray Hall, who in one way was the precursor of JL Cruze in that they both run roughshod in their division of Pocono's Weiss Series the last two springs, was making his second start for Team Allard after a claim and a 1:52 victory - and he was timed even faster tonight, 1:51.3, but that wasn't enough to hold off Boffin, driver by George Napolitano Jr. for trainer Anette Lorentzon, also co-owner with ACL Stuteri AB and Kjell Johansson.   "George Nap," who had four winners in the first nine races on the card, almost made it five and a sweep of the headliners in the tenth race top pacing event, but tactical turnabout is fair play, as his pacesetting Scott Rocks came home in 54.1 on the engine and yet was overhauled by Bushwacker and driver Andrew McCarthy by a half length in 1:50, another second choice catching a favorite in the lane.   Chris Ryder conditions the altered son of Rocknroll Hanover for Henderson Farms.   Ben Franklin winner Luck Be Withyou made it two straight since returning to Pocono with a 1:50.2 victory in a $20,000 pace.   George Napolitano Jr. was in the sulky of the victorious Western Ideal horse for trainer Chris Oakes and owner John Craig.   It was no surprise when "GNap" returned to the winners circle after the high-price claiming handicap pace with R Gauwitz Hanover, as that veteran has won eight of his last nine starts (all the time driven by Napolitano - that fact's significance will emerge shortly) and is 15-for-27 for the year after a 1:50.4 score.   What is amazing, though, about R Gauwitz Hanover is that on Saturday he was claimed for the eleventh straight start in a string going back to July 11, when Howard Taylor haltered him from Nick Gampietro Jr. after Gampietro had him for a relative "eternity," almost two straight months.   Trainer Jennifer Sabot and the Verrazano Stables LLC benefited from the pacer's talents this week; in his next start, he will be "completing a circle," as the successful claimant tonight was - Nick Gampietro Jr.! (We'd love to hear from anyone who knows of another horse who was claimed in 11 straight races!)   The reference to superowner Howard Taylor above was not gratuitous, but a link to the final newsworthy item at press time - he is the owner of Verdad, who came from last at the ¾ to win and pay $105.40 for driver Joe Bongiorno.   Verdad's trainer is Ron Burke - who now, shockingly, has produced the MOST $50+ winners at BOTH Pocono and Philly this year, with three boxcar winners at each eastern Pennsylvania oval!   He has only one "in the west," at his home base The Meadows, but even that one was newsworthy, because it came with $77 winner Cooperstown in the fastest elimination of The Adios Pace!   Jerry Connors

Coral Springs, FL – It was announced today by the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), that Charles Keller III, whose Yankeeland Farm produced Hambletonian winners Muscles Yankee (1998) and Yankee Paco (2000), has been voted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame. In addition, two veteran publicists, David Carr and Jerry Connors, were also voted as inductees into the Communicators Hall of Fame. Keller took over the helm of Yankeeland Farm after the 1990 death of his father, Charlie Keller Jr., of New York Yankees fame. Keller’s father purchased the farm in Frederick, Md., in 1955 and assembled the mares and bred the progeny that contributed to the farm’s success over several decades.  Keller has been a director of the Hambletonian Society since 2000 and is a member of the executive committee, for which he was chairman from 2013 through this spring, following the passing of John Cashman Jr. Keller was a director of the United States Trotting Association (USTA) for five terms and an active member of the Finance Committee. He is a current trustee of the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame. David Carr joined the USTA as a publicist and staff writer for Hoof Beats magazine in 1982. Three years later, he proposed the creation of the information and research department, developed it into a superb resource for those writing about the sport of harness racing, and is now head of that department. Jerry Connors has had a passion for harness racing since he was a child and few in the industry can duplicate his memory of racing and events in the sport. A “jack of all trades,” Connors has worked at numerous racetracks and industry organizations throughout his career as a publicist and administrator. He has been an USHWA director for 23 years, and is a licensed judge, track announcer and race charter.  Keller, along with horseman Bruce Nickells, who was previously announced as the senior-elect to the Hall of Fame, will join Carr and Connors at the USHWA Dan Patch Awards dinner on Sunday, March 6, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., as their first introduction as harness racing’s newest members of the Hall of Fame. The actual induction ceremony takes place on Sunday, July 3, at the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y. By Steven Wolf, for the United States Harness Writers Association

After racing the likes of multichampion mare Anndrovette earlier in the month, the Rocknroll Hanover mare Empress Deo has enjoyed some class relief in her last couple of starts and has responded with a pair of victories, with Friday's coming in the $24,000 featured pace for mares at the harness racing meeting at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. First to the quarter in 26.1 for driver George Napolitano Jr., Empress Deo relinquished the lead to 2014 Breeders Crown 3PF winner Sayitall BB and sat behind that one through middle splits of 54.2 and 1:22.2.   Turning into the stretch "George Nap," The Downs' leading driver and coming off of consecutive months of 100 or more driving wins, guided "The Empress" to the famed Pocono Pike and the mare used the inner route to maximum effect, winning by a neck in 1:50.4, lowering her personal best by a tick.   Wayne Givens trains the 9-time seasonal winner for Legacy Racing of DE Inc.   Earlier in the card, George Napolitano's brother Anthony, third in the Downs' standings, guided First Impression from the outside post nine to victory at a $141.80 win mutuel, second this year only to the $152.60 ticker generated by Marathon Man (Brandon Simpson) on May 18.   First Impression had a fast first half after which to close, but he was five-wide and probably closer to the paddock judge's office than to the inside pylons swinging for home; still, he came from seventh in early stretch to get the half-length victory for owner Martin Chouinard.   The triumph was only the tenth conditioning success in the still-young career of trainer Jamie Kirin -- but he had already demonstrated his ability to win with a lightly-regarded horse, as in his very first training win, on October 13, 2012 at Pocono, the Kirin-harnessed Artsbred Camotion teamed with driver Matt Kakaley to light up the board to the tune of $96.00!   FINISHING LINES -- Over $1.7M will be on the line Saturday night at The Downs on a card which will feature four $350,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Championships for three-year-olds, with national-caliber stars such as Wakizashi Hanover, Wild Honey, and Uncle Lasse among the major contenders in their respective events. (None of them are expected to pay $141.80, or even combined or parlayed.)   Jerry Connors

The richest harness racing Sire Stakes Championship series begins Saturday night.   The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono will host four $350,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Championship for three-year-olds.   Each of the four divisions will also have a $60,000 Consolation race; the total program on Saturday at Pocono will distribute purses of $1,770,000.   COLT PACERS $350,000 Championship - race 12 $60,000 Consolation - race 5   Championship record: 1:48.4, McWicked, 2014 (fastest Championship in PA history)   Defending champion from 2YO year: Yankee Bounty   Leading pointwinner in four preliminaries: Lost For Words   Most of the attention in the "glamour division" will be focused on Wakizashi Hanover, already a winner of over $840,000 this year, including the North America Cup Final, and regarded as second-best on the North American scene to the amazing Wiggle It Jiggleit.   Wakizashi has driven post five for the Championship, and as usual trainer Joann Looney-King has tapped Tim Tetrick to drive the altered son of Dragon Again for the Tri County Stable of Nova Scotia.   The sophomore has experience over the track, winning a Hempt elimination and then finished fourth from a difficult draw, and following that outing up with a second to "Wiggle" in the Battle of the Brandywine.   It's unusual to see a defending champion and a leading prelim pointswinner regarded as "outsiders" in the field, but Yankee Bounty and Lost For Words, respectively, are not only figurative outsiders, but the literal outsiders as well in the field of eight.   Yankee Bounty, starting from post seven for all-time Sire Stakes driving champion Dave Palone,does come off a 1:49.3 win in a Sire Stakes prelim, while Lost For Words (post eight, David Miller) was the only three-time winner in the Sires prelims.   COLT TROTTERS   $350,000 Championship - race 11 $60,000 Consolation - race 4   Championship record: 1:52.4, Father Patrick, 2014   Defending champion from 2YO year: Billy Flynn (the only 3YO who did not qualify for these finals)   Leading pointwinner in four preliminaries: Wicker Hanover   Wicker Hanover and Uncle Lasse were both three-time Sires prelim winners.   Wicker Hanover, an Explosive Matter colt who has done well on or off the pace, will start from post six for driver Andrew McCarthy, trainer Ross Croghan, and the Christer Haggstorm Racing Stable Inc., while the Donato Hanover colt Uncle Lasse, third in both the Hambletonian Final and the Colonial, drew post two for driver David Miller, trainer Jimmy Takter, and owners Solveig's Racing Partners and Goran Falk.   A horse conspicuous by his absence is Pinkman, #2 in the prelim pointstandings while achieving three victories, but when he won the Hambletonian trainer Takter chose the Triple Crown road for him, and he goes Saturday night at Yonkers in the Yonkers Trot, the second Crown leg.   But even with two recent losses to Crazy Wow, in the Colonial and Yonkers Trot elim, Pinkman likely would have been a big favorite here, and using the "glass is half full" theory, the race is much more competitive this way.   FILLY PACERS   $350,000 Championship - race 10 $60,000 Consolation - race 3   Championship record: 1:49, Economy Terror   Defending champion from 2YO year: Southwind Roulette   Leading pointwinner in four preliminaries: Somewhere Sweet   Perhaps the best testimony to the contentiousness of this division all year, and in theory here Saturday, is the fact that prelim pointleader Somewhere Sweet won only once in the prelims.   But the daughter of Somebeachsomewhere, trained by Brian Brown for Miller's Stable, has been a very consistent miss, winning half her ten seasonal starts and never finishing worse than fourth, and she draws the favorable post two for driver David Miller.   There were two two-time prelim winners in this division, but for Saturday they had the misfortune of drawing the two outside spots on the gate: Serious Filly (PP7, also trained by Brown, Tim Tetrick listed) and Safe From Terror (PP8, trainer Ron Burke, also listing Tetrick on the early sheet).   FILLY TROTTERS   $350,000 Championship - race 9 $60,000 Consolation - race 14   Championship record: 1:51.3, Check Me Out, 2012 (fastest trot Champion ever)   Defending champion from 2YO year: Wild Honey   Leading pointwinner in four preliminaries: Sarcy (not entered), Smokinmombo #2   Last year's divisional champion Wild Honey has come back sharply in 2015, with a win in the Hambletonian Oaks Final and two Sire Stakes wins.   The Cantab Hall filly is likely to be held as the horse to beat despite drawing post eight for driver Dave Palone, trainer Jimmy Takter, and the ownership combine of Takter, Fielding, Liverman, and Fielding.   Jimmy Takter is also the trainer of Sarcy, who was #1 in the prelim points, but that filly has not raced since finishing fifth in the Oaks Final on August 8 and has not won since June 25, so she is not entered in the Championship.   But Wild Honey is certainly a fine "backup plan."   FINISHING LINES   Dave Palone has 38 career wins in Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Championships, and the driver in second needs a telescope to see him even though winning five Championships last year - Yannick Gingras, with a total of 12.   We know Yannick will not duplicate that output in 2015, as he will be driving Pinkman at Yonkers on Saturday.   Palone, however, has a call in three of the four Championships, and there are two to-be-resolved double calls in the race he currently is not listed on.   The PA Sire Stakes Championship series for two-year-olds will be held on Friday, September 11, at The Meadows, with the same $350,000/$60,000 purse structure. In between, Harrah's Philadelphia will host the eight $40,000 Championships of the PA Stallion Series - the three-year-olds on a special card this Monday, Labor Day, and the two-year-olds the following Thursday.   Jerry Connors

 How do you follow-up on a month when you win 100 races as a harness racing driver?   Well, if you're George Napolitano Jr., you go out the next month and win 105.   Having won 100 races in the month of July while racing exclusively at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono and Harrah's Philadelphia, the leading driver at both tracks went out and even topped his previous month by winning 105 races in August, capped by seven winners on the month's "closing day" (both tracks are closed Monday.)   The actual "consecutive double century" milestone came at Harrah's on Sunday afternoon when "George Nap" won the sixth race with Reggiano.   Appropriately, the winner came from the barn of Gil Garcia-Herrera, Philly's leading trainer and a regular customer for Napolitano's services. (#99, Lispatty, also came from under Gil's shedrow.)   The Reggiano victory was the middle of three on the afternoon for George; he then went to Pocono and added four more, including another for Garcia-Herrera.   For the month, Napolitano won 50 times at Chester and 55 at Pocono.   Napolitano, 49, didn't start driving until the relatively-advanced age of 26, but he has certainly made up for lost time, with 7167 career victories.   His victory with the sophomore trotting filly Sistas, against males and older horses, on Saturday assured him of his sixth straight year with 500 or more wins, starting in 2010 when he won the North American title with 748 visits to Victory Lane.   He has risen to third in the 2015 North American standings behind Aaron Merriman and Ron Wrenn Jr.   Napolitano has a huge lead in the current Pocono stands, and should he remain atop the Pocono pack until season's end, he will earn his ninth dashwinning title at the northeast Pennsylvania mountain oval -- breaking his current share of the record of eight titles that he co-holds with Bill Lambertus.   George's brother Anthony is the third-leading driver at Pocono, and fans frequently see a "Nap-Nap" photo finish. In fact, on Sunday evening George won the fourth race with True Hero by a nose over Anthony and Scootchie; Anthony "returned the favor" in race 10 by teaming with Magic Tricks to hang a head loss on George and the horse Vengeance.   Jerry Connors

Mr Right went to the top of the standings among Pennsylvania Stallion Series two-year-old colt trotters when he won the fastest of seven divisions in the $140,000 third preliminary round in 1:56.3, a personal best, in Tuesday night action at the harness racing meeting at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.   Driver Victor Kirby and the Donato Hanover-Hey Mister colt had to overcome a first-over trip, but the talented youngster came his own last half in 57.4 to run his series record to 3-2-1-0, the best of all the babies, for trainer Leigh Raymer, who is also co-owner with Stephen Moss and Harold and Helene Solomon.   The only horse to beat Mr Right in the Stallion Series is Cufflink Hanover, who won in the first leg, skipped the second to try the deeper waters of the Sire Stakes, and came back to the Stallion ranks Tuesday and won in 1:57.4 wire-to-wire.   The gelded son of Andover Hall-Savoire Faire, possibly named after the pet turtles in the movie Rocky, is owned by driver David Miller and the Enzed Racing Stable Inc of trainer Nifty Norman.   Besides Mr Right and Cufflink Hanover, Twin B Ammunition added his name to the list of two-time Stallion winners by reducing his mark to 1:58.4.   TNT Rusty, the only double winner in the first two Stallion legs, was on the lead turning for home but made a break, opening the door for the Explosive Matter-Anklets Aweigh gelding to get the decision for trainer Bennie Magliochetti, having a career season, and owner Mahlon Martin.   It's hard to believe that it has been 42 years since the filly Starlark Hanover set a world record at Pocono en route to being named 2YO Trotter of the Year (no colt/filly separate voting then), but trainer/driver Dave Wade is still going strong, as he showed by putting a 1:56.4 maiden mark on the Lear Jetta-Ponytail Xpress gelding Nathaniel in another cut.   The baby led at every call for the ownership of Wade, Jerry Brittingham, Kelley Rogers, and William Peel III, also his breeders.   The only siring double of the night went to SJ's Caviar, as two altered sons of his stepped home first: Skeezix, out of Queen Of Angels, who broke his maiden in 1:59 for driver Kevin Wallis, trainer Rollie Mallar, and owner/breeder Michael Andrew, and Petrossian As (out of Elegant Dame), who was second in his debut, a Stallion leg, but showed no signs of not having raced since that event 34 days ago with a 1:58 triumph for driver Andrew McCarthy, trainer Anette Lorentzon, and owner/breeder ACL Stuteri Ab.   The final division winner had even less experience than Petrossian, but the Muscle Massive-Raysofgrace De Vie colt Pilgrims Tide followed up on two winning qualifiers by winning at first asking in 1:57.4 for "The Trot Man" of Pocono, driver Mike Simons, trainer Scott Andrews, and owners Edward W. Andrews and Edward W. Andrews III.   The Sire Stakes counterparts to these freshmen will contest their third preliminary Wednesday, with $251,780 on the line in four divisions.   The second leg saw no horse as a repeat winner from the first.   Jerry Connors

George Napolitano Jr., the leading driver at both Harrah's Philadelphia and The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono who is coming off a 100-win month in the sulky during July, won 10 races on Sunday to raise his count to 60 triumphs in the first 16 days of August. And we'll never know if he would have won an 11th on Sunday -- because a tractor got in the way. Napolitano was red-hot at Philly to open the day, winning seven times while staying for only 11 races before leaving to make the almost-two-hour ride north to Pocono, where he won 3 more times to put him into double-digits. Nap was to drive odds-on favorite Dream Rocker in the last race of the day And then things turned from the sublime to the ridiculous (and thank goodness not serious or injurious). Dream Rocker made the lead past the quarter, yielded to Broadway's Fortune (Joe Pavia Jr.), and was just recorralling that one nearing the middle of the far turn when announcer Jim Beviglia gave the chilling call, "Drivers -- there's a tractor on the track -- be careful -- there's a tractor on the track," as one of the maintenance crew had guided his machine onto the surface a lap too early at headstretch. Pavia, who upon examination of the replay appeared to see the tractor before his horse reached the 3/4, can be clearly seen on the video turning and yelling a warning over his right shoulder, and everybody stacked wide to get around the unexpected impediment (except one driver who found it more expedient to make a left-hand turn into the infield with his charge). Napolitano and Dream Rocker went from two-wide with momentum to five-wide under caution, and in the end was nipped by Annies List and Tyler Buter -- to no practical effect, as the judges ruled that because of the outside mechanical interference, the race was being declared "no contest," with all mutuels refunded. It was definitely a bizarre ending to a great day of driving by Napolitano, who now has 30 victories at each track in August. Jerry Connors

After the cancellation of the Pennsylvania Fair Sire Stakes program for three-year-olds yesterday, harness fans got to see some talented two-year-olds on the track today (Thursday) at the Wayne County Fair.   Roger Hammer had two geldings run their fair records to 7-6-1-0 in the racing for the freshmen. He posted the fastest time on the pace with the Nuclear Breeze - B T Falcon gelding Billy's Falcon, whom he owns, trains, drives, and bred.    (We should note, though, that despite that lofty record, Billy's Falcon is fractionally behind in the seasonal pointstandings to the McArdle-Timeless Classic gelding Mclassic, who has an 8-4-3-1 tally after winning at Waynesburg Monday.)   Also 7-6-1-0 on his tour of Pennsylvania is the Donato Hanover-Gaytanes gelding High Octane, this time home in 2:08.2 for owner/trainer/driver Hammer.   Hammer's A Little Laid Back, the leader among baby trotting fillies, lost a four-race winning streak when she ran into the Cantab Hall-Eclat Hanover buzzsaw miss Connie Jean, now four-for-four at the country twicearounds after a 2:10 win for trainer/driver Todd Schadel and owners Charles Keller III (the Hall of Fame nominee), Charles Keller IV, and Dan and Brett Bittle.   Trainer/driver Schadel also posted the fastest trot time in the FFA event with the SJ's Caviar mare Caviar Call Girl, a 2:07.3-29.3 winner for himself and wife Christine, also the breeders.   It seems only appropriate, five days after the tenth anniversary of their Vivid Photo winning the Hambletonian, that Hammer and Schadel both sat atop the training and driving lists with three winners during the abbreviated session.   Brandon Givens drove a pair of winners as he continues his comeback, with his seasonal totals 59-20-9-7-.463, and he sits fourth in the sulky statistics behind Hammer (44), Chris Shaw (37), and Brady Brown (24).   Next week the Pennsylvania Fair Sire Stakes circuit makes two stops.   First will come the action at the Washington County Fairgrounds, the site known as Arden Downs during its Grand Circuit days, where sophomores will go Monday and freshmen Tuesday, both days at 10.   The circuit then moves on to the (relatively) nearby Dayton Fair, for action starting at high noon on Wednesday (three-year-olds) and Thursday (two-year-olds).   Jerry Connors

  A two-day meet of harness racing held in conjunction with the Greene County Fair in this southwestern Pennsylvania town, the home of Dave Palone, was completed Wednesday, with many of the circuit's top performers during the first half of the year continuing their winning ways.   The fastest mile of the meet went again to the Western Terror sophomore gelding Royaltyhasarrived, who has two of the circuit's seven 2:00 miles to date, including the 1:58.1 all-age mark at Hughesville.   At Waynesburg, only 2:02.1 was required for "Royalty" to be crowned for the sixth successive time at the Keystone twicearounds, with a 29.2 final quarter in the mile for driver Brady Brown, trainer Steve Schoeffel, and owners Virginia and Kathy Schoeffel and Michael Munn.   It hardly seems possible that it has been 42 years since Starlark Hanover was named North American champion two-year-old trotter of the year, colt or filly (no separate vote in those days), but her trainer/driver Dave Wade is still going strong, winning the fastest trot of the meet with the Andover Hall gelding Simeon, reporting home first in 2:05.3 for owners Wade, Jerry Brittingham, William Peel III, and Delores Wade.   Simeon, who in his last start equaled the all-age trot mark at Clearfield at 2:02, joined with Silver Sierra (a catch-drive from Roger Hammer) to give Dave Wade a sweep of the 3TC action at Waynesburg, and the previous day Dave had won in the baby trotting colt action with his Shady McCoy as well.   Team Shaw - consisting of three-year-old owner Mason, trainer/father Jason, and driver/uncle Chris - bounced back from a recent mini-slump with five winners to lead the short meet in those categories.   Especially also worth mention among many other fine performers, both equine and human, is the sophomore pacing filly Betterthanrevenge, now undefeated in five fair starts for trainer/driver Harold Brocklehurst, and in her Waynesburg win defeating the Shaws' Tropical Terror, 2014's winningest freshman in North America.   Three hours after the close of the Waynesburg meet, the tenth of the summer's 20 PA stops, the second half of the year was supposed to open 358 miles northeast at the Wayne County Fair in Honesdale (where the aforementioned Hammer had six in to go).   But bad luck finally caught up to the fair circuit and, after no cancellations since June 28, the racing had to be scrubbed.   Thursday brings the promise of better weather, two-year-olds, and a free-for-all trot at Honesdale, with the action starting at 1 p.m.   Jerry Connors

There had been six divisions of the first preliminary of Pennsylvania Stallion Series action for two-year old harness racing pacing fillies.   After the second prelim, which went in seven divisions, there were no repeat winners -- 13 different Stallion Stake winners.   Twelve of that baker's dozen came to The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono on Tuesday to contest the $120,000 third preliminary leg over six divisions.   No previous winner won on Tuesday.   And thus there are nineteen different Stallion Series winners after three rounds. Talk about parity!   Only two of Tuesday's winners were not breaking their maiden, and one of the previous visitors to Victory Lane was the only favorite in the Stallion Series and also had the fastest time.   That would be Western Ideal-Sass Newton miss Newborn Sassy, who followed up on a 1:54 score in a Philly overnight with a 1:53.1 victory here, drawing off by 7 1/2 lengths in a 28.1 kicker for driver Tim Tetrick and trainer Jim King Jr. of Team Wakizashi, the latter co-owner with CC Racing LLC.   Tetrick, who had the only Stallion driving double, also won with the other non-maiden who was victorious, the Yankee Cruiser-Noble Marty filly Marty Party Two, who followed up on an earlier 1:55.3 score at Scioto with a quarter-move to triumph in 1:54.4 for trainer Ron Steck, the latter co-owner with Gary Condit and Bruce Soulsby.   Sire Yankee Cruiser got another credit from Shesjustcruising (out of the mare Shes Just Rockin), who made every pole a winning one in 1:53.4 for driver Anthony Napolitano, trainer John Marshall, and owner Susan Marshall.   Somebeachsomewhere also had a siring double, producing Sixoclocksomewhere (out of She's My Belle), who quarter-moved after a 26.4 opener and won for the first time in 1:55.1 for driver Corey Callahan, trainer Doug Lewis, and ubiquitous owner Howard Taylor, along with East Side Hanover (out of Edra Hanover), who overcame a recent sick scratch in fine style while triumphing in 1:54, back fractions 56 - 27.3, for driver Matt Kakaley, trainer Ron Burke, and the combine of Burke Racing, Weaver Bruscemi, Frank Baldachino, and Paul Treiber.   The sixth Stallion winner also had the smallest margin of victory -- and the biggest price -- as the Dragon Again - Ty's Artist filly Notagain proved most photogenic by a head in 1:55.3, making her 13-1 backers happy, along with driver Howard Parker, trainer Bucky Angle, and owner Richard Mannon.   Nineteen different preliminaries, nineteen different winners.   When these fillies meet again next Tuesday afternoon at The Meadows, in their final chance to earn spots in their division's $40,000 Championship September 10 at Harrah's Philadelphia, you think the competition just might be spirited?   Jerry Connors

Musselsfrmbrussels, nearly ten lengths off a wild early pace by Getitoffyourchest at the 3/4, rallied strongly to win the $24,000 featured pace at the harness racing meeting at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Saturday, edging Malak Uswaad N by a nose in 1:49.1.   After there not being a 1:20 or less clocking to the 3/4s in 2015 North American harness racing after the eighth month's seventh day, the next day produced two within eight hours and seven minutes -- State Treasurer's 1:19.4 in winning the U.S. Pacing Championship at The Meadowlands, and here Geitoffyourchest getting off unbelievable numbers of 25.1, 52.2, and 1:19.4, with driver Simon Allard kicking out the earplugs nearing the 3/4 even though his pacer had an 8-length lead.   Allard was proven correct in his concern for keeping his horse going, as Malak Uswaad N was rapidly gaining uncovered for Jim Morrill Jr.,with Musselsfrmbrussels and Anthony Napolitano right on his back.   Malak Uswaad N took the lead in midstretch, but "ANap" kept after Musselsfrmbrussels (named after Jean-Claude Van Damme), and he took the measure of his foe right on the line. (Getitoffyourchest wound up sixth.)   The winning son of Modern Art is conditioned by Pocono's leading trainer, Rene Allard, who had three winners on the night at press time, as did Pocono's leading driver George Napolitano Jr.   The career winner of $549,383 equaled his lifetime mark for 2/3 of the partnership that owned Pocono's Friday feature winner Yagonnakissmeornot, Allard Racing Inc and Yves Sarrazin, with Serge Bureau also a partner on Musselsfrmbrussels.   The action doesn't let up at Pocono tomorrow night, as four fields of two-year-old pacing fillies contest the third preliminary leg of their Pennsylvania Sire Stakes campaign.   Trainer Jimmy Takter, fresh off his success with Pinkman in the Hambletonian on Saturday, has two of Sunday's finest prospects, Pure Country and Ivy League.   Jerry Connors

Spanning the end of this racing week and the beginning of the next one, two-year-old pacing fillies will be coming to The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono for the third preliminary leg of Pennsylvania-sired action, with four divisions of a $253,980 Sire Stakes contest on Sunday and six divisions of $120,000 Stallion Series action at the harness racing meeting on Tuesday.   These baby fillies have shown remarkable competitiveness - there will be eight winners from the first two legs of the Sire Stakes, and no fewer than twelve previous Stallion Series winners, competing in the two days, and of those 20 fillies, only one has won in both legs so far - Pure Country, a Sire Stakes filly who gives every indication that she could be headed for national stardom.   Pure Country is a filly who is pure pedigree on both sides - her sire is newly-installed Horse Hall of Famer Somebeachsomewhere, and her dam, Western Montana, is a Western Hanover who earned $175,000 at the races. And Western Montana's bloodlines include two full brothers, Allamerican Ingot and Allamerican Inca, who won $2M between them, and a Jate Lobell $900,000-winning half-brother in LCB.   Trained by the ubiquitous Hall of Famer Jimmy Takter for owner/breeder Diamond Creek, Pure Country is perfect in three purse starts, winning a PA All-Stars race here before her Sires wins at Philly and The Meadows.   All three have been in 1:54.1 or better, the best the 1:53.1 in her last start at The Meadows, but what is truly special about her ability is that in each race - each on a 5/8-mile track, remember - Pure Country has beaten 27 seconds home.   And what's really scary?   Potentially , she just might not be the best one - not only of this Sires group or North America - but even under Takter's own shedrow.   Takter also trains Ivy League, another Somebeachsomewhere out of the champion filly he campaigned, See You At Peelers (who is also now owned by Diamond Creek).   Ivy League had two seconds and a parked-the-mile outing in her first three starts, but Takter got an "A+" for "Ivy League horsesense" when he entered this golden-pedigreed miss in the Stallion Series' first leg, so that she could continue her development without being overpressed.   Stepping up to the Sire Stakes at The Meadows in her next start, she had a devastating victory, coming from dead last, 10 lengths behind, to win in 1:52.2, in hand, with her own last half in 54, looking like a mature campaigner shifting into overdrive coming off the last turn. (In breaking her maiden, no less.)   Ivy League, bred by Christina Takter and John and Jim Fielding and owned by Christina, John, Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld, has post five in race five while Pure Country has post two in race ten.   Takter has these two fillies in the Sire Stakes and three more in Tuesday's Stallion Series while his co-occupant of the top of the training world, Ron Burke, has six Sire Stakes fillies and one in the Stallion Series (for a 7-5 edge at Pocono, reversing the preliminary 21-19 quantity edge [that could change, remember] Takter has on the Hambletonian card the day before the Sire Stakes).   As noted, there will be twelve winners from the first two Stallion Series legs - including six who have a second complementing their first - but no repeat winners when they face the gate on Tuesday.   They should produce very competitive contests, and might point some direction as to whom may be among the leaders in this class.   Jerry Connors

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