HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Former Major League Baseball player turned horse owner Mike Napoli got his new career off to a pretty good beginning here over the weekend, winning with just his second starter, Queen’s Bird, who went wire to wire in Sunday’s fourth race.
Napoli, 37, announced his retirement from baseball in December after a 12-year career during which he played for the Anaheim Angels, Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers, and Boston Red Sox. A catcher, first baseman, and designated hitter, Napoli won the World Series in 2013 with the Red Sox after being named an All-Star with the Rangers the previous season.
Napoli is no stranger to the local horse racing scene. Born in nearby Hollywood, Fla, he grew up in Pembroke Pines where he attended Flanagan High School and was selected in the 17th round of the 2000 Major League Baseball draft by the Angels.
“When I was younger, my grandfather used to take me to the track all the time at Calder, Gulfstream West now,” said Napoli. “And my buddies would all come to the track to bet on horses. It was something I always loved to do.”
Napoli, who has seven horses, all with trainer Aubrey Maragh, said that following knee surgery last year he decided it was time to start another chapter in his life, and he turned to Thoroughbred horse racing.
“I’m looking to have some fun and hopefully to be able to grow the stable,” Napoli said. “We started by claiming seven horses and making one private purchase. I’m not going to put a ceiling on it. Wherever it takes me, it takes me. Right now I’m just excited about being able to own some horses and get involved.”
Napoli’s first starter ran on Saturday. Reagan’s Odyssey finished fourth and was claimed out of the race. But less than 24 hours later, Napoli was celebrating his first victory as an owner with Queen’s Bird.
“I got a little nervous before my horses ran, just like I’d always get nervous before every game I played,” Napoli said shortly after the race. “But it was a good kind of nervous. And to be able to go into the winner’s circle with all my friends was so cool. Baseball was something I did my whole life. To actually own a horse and win a race is a very different experience and something I really enjoyed. I’d like to get involved in baseball again one day, probably on the coaching side. Right now, I’m planning on taking a year off, spend a little travel time and also to enjoy this and see where it takes me. And hopefully I’ll be able to do well and stick around the business for a long time.”
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
Visit DRF.com for additional news, notes, wagering information, and more.