George Napolitano, Jr. reached yet another milestone in his career by winning his 6,000th race, a feat which puts him in the top 60 among drivers that have competed in the two-century history of the sport.
The Smithtown, N.Y. native reached the lofty plateau on Feb. 22 with Lily's Hi Ho, competing out of the Peter Pellegrino Stable.
As successful as his career has become, "Nap," now 47, began his career quite late at the age of 26 and in a very inauspicious manner--his first 21 drives came in qualifying events at Pompano Park in 1992.
His first pari-mutuel victory came on Jan. 28, 1993 with the pacer Wrapped -- at 13-1 -- in 1:58.2. He went on to post 41 victories in his first year of competition, accounting for purses of $86,537.
It has been, pretty much, an uphill climb reaching new plateaus of success each year as the old century ended and the new one began. During the initial seven years of the new millennium, Napolitano established himself as one of the premier trainers in the sport, recording four straight years with a "batting" average over .400 -- the pinnacle coming in 2006 at .459.
Shortly thereafter, "Nap" concentrated on catch-driving, a skill which has put him in high demand.
In 2010, he won 746 races, tops in North America, and followed that with victory totals of 541, 644 and, last year, 551 to vault himself within range of 6,000 wins.
Napolitano now has amassed close to $50 million in purse earnings for owners, an amazing statistic since he rarely gets the opportunity to compete in the "big money" purses -- $100,000 and over.
His success has come, mostly, in "overnight" races, so it's more than apropos that he reached number 6,000 with a mare competing in an overnight event with a claiming tag of $6,000, plus allowances, of course.
Of his success, Napolitano is very low-key, simply saying, "I'm happy to get number 6,000, but, now, there's the bugle and it's time to go after number 6,001 -- and beyond!" (Pompano)