03/08/2018 4:44PM

Meadowlands: A healthy Anthony Napolitano putting up big numbers


After sitting out last winter to recuperate from the lingering effects of a racing accident, Anthony Napolitano is happy with his results so far this winter. Napolitano is the leading driver at the Meadowlands in 2018, with 26 wins, and hoping for continued success throughout the year.

Napolitano, who notched 175 of his 200 wins in 2017 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, plans to continue racing at the Meadowlands on Fridays even after Pocono opens March 17. He also plans to race once a week at Yonkers, where he has picked up 15 wins this season.

This Friday, Napolitano has 10 drives on the Meadowlands’ 13-race card. “Meadowlands Harness Live” airs from 9-10 p.m. on SNY (SportsNet New York) and features races seven through nine.

“I feel good,” Napolitano said. “I feel like I’m just getting started. Things are looking good for the future; hopefully we can keep it going.”

Napolitano was injured in an accident May 31, 2016 at Pocono. He was sidelined for nearly two months, returning to action at the end of July, but decided in November to take additional time away from the track. In March 2017, Napolitano returned to the sulky and recorded 200 wins and $2.64 million in purses the rest of the way.

“I rushed it back,” Napolitano said. “It was a struggle for me. I had to make a decision, whether to shut down shop and regroup, or continue the way I was going. It wasn’t good for me. I wasn’t comfortable in the bike and I couldn’t get horses up on the bit. I wanted to be a hundred percent.

“Last year I took off to rest my back. I was happy I was able to take off the winter and heal the right way because if I had kept pushing myself the injury could have lingered throughout the rest of my career. It definitely worked.”

The 36-year-old Napolitano, the younger brother of perennial Pocono driving champ George Napolitano Jr., has won 2,491 races in his career and earned at least $2 million in purses the past three years.

Until recently, Napolitano spent the winters driving at Florida’s Pompano Park. He started driving at the Meadowlands during the winters in 2015. In his first winter, November 2015-March 2016, he won 48 races -- second best among all drivers during that time frame -- and produced a positive 20-percent return on investment (ROI) for his backers.

Overall at the Meadowlands since November 2015, Napolitano has won 15-percent of his races, 94 of 625, and produced a positive 23-percent ROI. His ROI is the best among all drivers during that time span.

“I’m just happy to be in the mix of things,” Napolitano said. “I’m going to try to stay at Yonkers on Thursday and Meadowlands on Friday throughout the year instead of quitting them completely. I’m going to try to keep my foot in the door this year and see how it goes. I’m just thankful I can go to these tracks and people are willing to use me.”

He also is thankful to feel completely healthy.

“It makes you appreciate what you’ve got,” he said.

-Courtesy of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, please visit www.ustrotting.com