Mack Lobell and Napoletano Continue Rivalry
ED SCHUYLER JR.
Nov. 08, 1987
Undated (AP) _ Mack Lobell is the fastest trotter in history.
However, the fastest trotter in history for the final quarter-mile is Napoletano, and he became that in a race that cost Mack Lobell the Triple Crown.
Friday night, the two colts will meet for the sixth time in a fitting climax to harness racing's hottest rivalry in some time - the $400,000 Breeders Crown 3-year-old Colt Trot at Pompano Park in Pompano Beach, Fla.
At stake could be Trotter of the Year and probably Horse of the Year.
''In my opinion Mack already is horse of the year,'' said Lou Guida, the positive thinker, who manages Mack Lobell's racing career. ''Napoletano doesn't have a world record to his credit.''
Mack Lobell has two world records to his credit this year, including an incredible 1:52 1-5 on a one-mile track at Springfield, Ill.
''I think Napoletano deserves it (the awards) if he wins,'' said trainer Tommy Haughton. ''He's beat Mack Lobell three of five times. He raced the fastest last quarter (26 2-5 in the Kentucky Futurity) and he set two track records on the same day at Lexington. Some pretty good trotters have raced there.''
''Napoletano beat Mack twice,'' Gida said. ''Mack beat himself when he broke 20 yards from the finish line and had the race in hand.'' Mack Lobell finished third as Napoletano won the first heat of the World Trotting Derby on at DuQuoin, Ill.
While Guida, and some others observers, feel Mack Lobell could win year-end honors even if he loses in the Breeders Crown, Guida admits a lot of people in the sport root against his horses because of him.
''Despite my success, they don't feel I've paid my dues,'' said the retired stockbroker, who in the last decade has been the most successfull owner- syndicator in either harness or thoroughbred horse racing. ''I'm not one of the good old boys.''
The 30-year-old Haughton is the son of Hall of Fame driver-trainer Billy Haugton, who trained Napoletano as a 2-year-old until he was injured fatally in a racing accident.
''He had a lot of good trotters,'' Haughton said, ''but Napoletano is extra special. Mack Lobell is special, too.''
Their drivers are special, too - two of the best ever to sit in sulky. John Campbell drives Mack Lobell and Bill O'Donnell drives Napoletano.
Mack Lobell, the champion 2-year-old trotter in 1986, has won 12 of 15 starts this year, with one second and one third, and has earnings of $982,803. He is co-owned by Edward K. Mullen of Cream Ridge, N.J., and the 19-member One More Time Stable of Lawrenceville, N.J., which is headed by Guida.
Napoletano, owned by Walter Belanger of Matane, Quebec, has 1987 earnings of $982,526 on earnings of 14 wins, three seconds and four thirds in 22 starts.
The first meeting of the year between the two colts came in the second, and deciding heat, of the Hambletonian. Mack Lobell won in 1:53 3-5, beating Napoletano by 6 1/4 lengths Aug. 8 at the Meadowlands. In his next start, Mack Lobell trotted his 1:52 1-5 in a heat of the Review Stake Aug. 21 at Springfield, shattering the old record by 1 1-5 seconds.
Mack Lobell and Napoletano next met at the World Trotting Derby Sept. 5. Napoletano won both heats. After breaking in the first heat, with victory in sight, Mack Lobell broke early in the second heat and finished eighth. Napoletano's second-heat time of 1:53 2-5 equaled the old world record.
Their third meeting came in the Kentucky Futurity Oct. 2 at The Red Mile as Mack Lobell tried to become the first trotter to sweep the Yonkers Trot, Hambletonian and Futurity. Mack Lobell led for the first three-quarters of a mile of the decisive heat before being overtaken in that sizzling final quarter by Napoletano, who won by a half length in 1:57 3-5.
Napoletano actually paced the last quarter mile faster than 26 2-5 since he was a half-length behind Mack Lobell at the three-quarter-mile pole.
''It's pretty hard to believe when you're going that fast that anybody can go past you,'' Campbell said.
Both colts won their first starts after the Kentucky Futurity - it was the ninth straight win for Napoletano - then met again in the Colonial Oct. 31 at Rosecroft. Napoletano broke stride approaching the half-mile pole, while Mack Lobell went on to win in 1:57 2-5, equaling the world record for a half-mile track.
That was their only meeting on a track that was not a one-mile onval. Pompano Park is a five-eighths-mile track.
While no decision has been announced on Mack Lobell's racing future, Haughton said Napoletano will go to stud next year. So the stage is set for the end of a stirring rivalry.
''I want to get it over with and see who is the best,'' Haughton said.
End Adv Weekend Editions Nov. 7-8