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Ness claims second straight training title at Tampa Bay Downs

Trainer Jamie Ness has 64 wins so far this meet.

Trainer Jamie Ness has 64 wins so far this meet.

Jamie Ness once reported the news. Now, he makes it as the leading trainer at Tampa Bay Downs.

With five days remaining in the 2007-08 meet, Ness has clinched his second consecutive training title with domination seldom seen. He surpassed the Oldsmar track's previous 81-year meet win record (44 by the late Don Rice) on Day 61 of the 94-day meet.

A former sports reporter, Ness has 64 wins, 31 more than runnerup Dale Bennett. His purse earnings of $906,673, boosted by four stakes wins, are $392,972 higher than Bennett. In 182 starts, Ness' win percentage is 35 and his in-the-money percentage is 64. He ranks 11th nationally with 59 wins in 2008.

"I've done better than I expected," Ness said. "I won the title last year (as) kind of a dark horse. I was probably a million to one. Nobody knew who I was. Now, everybody knows me, and I have a target on my back. It's good to be in that situation."

Ness' father, John, who runs a small stable in Nebraska, put training in his blood. But conditioning wasn't in Ness' immediate plans. He served as sports editor of the Collegian, the South Dakota State University student newspaper, and worked in the sports department at the Brookings Register, a daily newspaper. Ness, 33, whose boyhood dream was to be a football player, began training horses in 1999.

His patience was tested early. In his second year, the Heron, S.D., native lost 56 straight races.

"I never forget that," he said.

Ness credits his current success to 13-hour workdays, a loyal 14-member staff, speed-oriented riders such as Daniel Centeno, Ronald Allen Jr. and Huber Villa-Gomez, and quality horses. His conditioning program focuses on fitness, highlighted by 8-furlong workouts.

"I train harder than most people because fitness is a key on this race track with the sandy surface," Ness said. "Each horse is different, though. You have to individualize each one. I do pretty well because horses, once they're fit, seem to stay pretty sound on it."

Ness also has an eye for talent. In statistics released by stakes coordinator Duby Christo, Ness has claimed 23 horses totaling $405,000, including three at $32,000, five at $25,000 and eight at $16,000.

"I read the (Daily Racing) Form and get to know the horses," he said. "I see how other trainers are working their horses, and see if there's something that fits my program. The key is to purchase horses when you can make some money — sort of like buy low and sell high."

For the past two seasons, horses claimed by Ness won stakes later in the meet.

This year, Ness purchased Repenting, a 3-year-old maiden, for $25,000. He won the $75,000 Sophomore Stakes on April 5 in stakes-record time.

Ness' best claim in 2007 was Lookinforthesecret, who is entered today in the $250,000 Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint Handicap (5:51 p.m.) at Calder Race Course in Miami Gardens. Claimed for $12,500, the 6-year-old horse from Cimarron Secret captured the $75,000 Turf Dash last season and has three stakes victories this meet.

Both horses belong to the Downs' leading owner, Balkrisna Sukharan. Other major owners Ness works with are Web's Gem Stable and Jagger Inc. of Minnesota, and Acclaimed Racing Stable of West Palm Beach.

"I've got blue-collar owners that work for a living and can't afford to have hot, expensive horses," Ness said. "They get their thrill by claiming horses. My goal is to make my owners some money and win some races."

Ness will go to Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn., after the Downs' meet concludes.

MORE THOROUGHBREDS: Dancing Forever wore down Drilling for Oil and Stream of Gold (IRE) in the stretch to win the Grade 2 $200,000 Elkhorn Stakes as Keeneland closed its spring meet in Lexington, Ky.

GREYHOUNDS: McAllister Kennels' Flying Macbeth returned from an injury and ended the eight-race win streak of win leader Red Dirt Road of LaRosa Enterprises on April 19 at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg. The win pulled Flying Macbeth within one of Red Dirt Road (32 wins).

Times wires were used in this report.

Ness claims second straight training title at Tampa Bay Downs 04/25/08 [Last modified: Friday, April 25, 2008 10:25pm]
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