John Napariu wins 2018 Road to the Derby
John Napariu, horse owner, handicapper and frequent contest player at Indiana Grand, has won the 2018 Road to the Derby contest. The contest, which began Saturday, Feb. 3, covered 10 weeks of action and included 18 races from tracks across the United States. Napariu topped the field with 52 points, just one point ahead of Kenny Peacock, who finished second. Dave Stroud finished third with 49 points.
A native of New Palestine, Napariu played in all 10 weeks of the contest to earn an additional 5,000 Club Centaur Rewards points. He was a consistent player and among the top 10 from day one, but it was his choice in the $200,000 Grade III Jeff Ruby Steaks (formerly known as the Spiral Stakes) at Turfway Park March 17 that changed the whole landscape of the contest.
“It was my pick in the Spiral Stakes (Jeff Ruby Steaks) that flipped the standings and put me in the lead,” said Napariu. “Everyone that week was going with the chalk (Hazit) and I went off the chalk and picked a 10-1 shot (Blended Citizen). Up to that point, it was nip and tuck. After that, everyone seemed to go with the same horses and they just happened to win but that one race gave me a lead over them.”
Napariu earned the top prize of $1,500 for his win in the Road to the Derby contest, which concluded Saturday, April 14 with the Grade I Arkansas Derby. Napariu picked seven of the 18 races correctly, and chose the winning horse in four out of the last five weeks of the competition to retain his lead in the standings. Peacock received $600 for second while Stroud won $250 for third. The top five places received rewards with Tony Fannin finishing fourth for $100 and Karen McGuinness completing the top five finishers for $50.
“There are some pretty good handicappers in there (the Road to the Derby contest),” noted Napariu. “I got lucky for the win.”
Napariu and his wife, Amy, are avis horse racing fans. They own part of the talented stakes placed Indiana bred gelding Mr Manning and several other horses that have raced at Indiana Grand the past few seasons. Their mare, Tupelo Tide, is now retired and will be bred to Shackleford this spring.
“This is the first time we have bred one of our horses (Tupelo Tide) so we are excited about that,” said Amy. “We are breeding her to Shackleford and it will be foaled in Indiana, so it will be an Indiana bred.”
The Naparius are looking forward to the 2018 racing season at Indiana Grand. In addition to Mr Manning, they have five other horses in training for the upcoming meet.