Homicide Hunter and driver George Napolitano Jr. will be reunited this weekend for the first time since their win in October’s Breeders Crown Open Trot and the two have proved to be a dynamic duo. Napolitano has driven the trotter 11 times in his career and posted nine victories.
“We get along good,” said Napolitano, who will drive 7-year-old Homicide Hunter in Sunday’s (May 26) $100,000 Maxie Lee Invitational for older trotters at Harrah’s Philadelphia. “He’s just a good ol’ horse, it’s pretty simple. He’s got the heart to win. He always sticks his nose out. He makes it pretty easy for a driver.”
Homicide Hunter, history’s fastest trotter with a time of 1:48.4 set last year in the Allerage Open Trot at Lexington’s Red Mile, is the 3-1 morning-line favorite in the Maxie Lee and will start from post three. He is making his third start of the season and enters off a 1:52.4 victory in a preliminary round of the Great Northeast Open Series at Philly on May 19.
Yannick Gingras, who is in Sweden for the World Driving Championship, drove Homicide Hunter in his first two starts this year for Ron Burke, who took over the training of the horse in April. The gelding was trained the previous three years by Chris Oakes.
Ten of Napolitano’s prior drives behind Homicide Hunter came at Napolitano’s home track, The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, including victories in the Great Northeast Open Series final and the Breeders Crown. It was the first Breeders Crown triumph for Napolitano, who has won more races at Pocono than any driver in history and was the North American leader in wins in 2010. “(The Breeders Crown) meant everything,” said Napolitano, who has 9,633 wins in his career. “I always wanted to win that big race at my home track, and he led me to it.”
Homicide Hunter, owned by Crawford Farms Racing, has won 40 of 80 lifetime starts and earned $1.73 million in purses. Last year, he had nine victories in 16 races and received the Dan Patch Award for best older male trotter.
“He’s a real laid-back, simple horse,” Napolitano said. “He’s just a cool animal. He’s a true champion. He just does his job great.”
Will Take Charge is the 4-1 second choice on the Maxie Lee morning line. He will start from post five with Scott Zeron driving for trainer Jeff Gillis. The 6-year-old gelding won the open handicap at Yonkers in his most recent start, May 11.
Guardian Angel As and Cruzado Dela Noche are both 9-2. Guardian Angel As will have Tim Tetrick in the sulky for trainer Anette Lorentzon and starts from post two. He enters off a preliminary round Great Northeast Open Series triumph on May 12. Cruzado Dela Noche, who won the Cutler Memorial on May 4, leaves from post eight with driver Brian Sears for trainer Marcus Melander.
The Maxie Lee Invitational is race 11 on Sunday’s card at Harrah’s Philadelphia. The track is also hosting the $100,000 Betsy Ross Invitational for older female pacers, the $100,000 Commodore Barry Invitational for older male pacers, and three divisions of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes for 3-year-old male pacers. Racing begins at 12:40 p.m. (EDT).
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