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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By James Witherite, for Hoof Beats — George Napolitano Jr. floored the accelerator on Ruthless Hanover from race’s outset in the $100,000 Joseph Auger Memorial Invitational Pace, held Sunday (May 28) at Harrah’s Philadelphia, and the 6-year-old gelding responded with a 1:46.3 mile — the fastest ever on a five-eighths-mile track.

Ruthless Hanover, who now has won four of his five starts this season and 20 of his 45 career outings, erased the previous three-turn world record of 1:46.4, set by Allywag Hanover in November 2022 at Rosecroft Raceway.

After wiring his competition in his previous two wins over Open company this season at Harrah’s Philadelphia, the son of Somebeachsomewhere predictably employed familiar tactics, gunned to the fore by Napolitano to clear Hellabalou through a :25.2 first quarter before scorching middle splits of :53 and 1:19.2 and widening his uncontested lead to 2-1/2 lengths. And, despite the fast fractions, Napolitano had no doubt his pacer was up to completing the task.

“He’s that horse,” Napolitano said. “It was definitely a speed track, and that’s where he likes to be. I was just hoping he would keep pacing to the wire, and he did.”

Ruthless Hanover continued to edge away from his seven rivals off the turn for home, using a :27.1 closing quarter to evade runner-up South Beach Star and driver David Miller by 3-3/4 lengths. Lochinvar Art A (Lauren Tritton) saved third over a tired Hellabalou.

“When I saw the three-quarter pole, I thought if he kept pacing like he has been, he’d (break the world record),” said Napolitano. “He was up on the bit going around the turn and hitting gears, and I knew it would be possible. He’s an amazing animal to do that.”

Tom Cancelliere, who trains Ruthless Hanover for his brother, owner John Cancelliere, indicated the pacer came back a more mature animal compared to his 5-year-old season:

“He came back a little bigger and a little stronger, and his mindset’s different — he’s calmer. He used to get more fired up,” Cancelliere said. “Now he’s more focused; he knows what’s going on. He’s been kind of lightly raced, but hopefully he’s in the right spot now.”

And as far as the toll a 1:46.3 mile took on his star pacer?

“He came back super (immediately after the race),” Cancelliere said. “He drank a lot of water; he’s acting normal.

“I’m one of those people who wants to go as slow as I can go and get the money, but the world record is nice — it’s the icing on the cake.”

As the even-money favorite, Ruthless Hanover paid $4.00 to win.

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