OLDSMAR — Tampa Bay Downs leading trainer Jamie Ness has big expansion plans this spring and summer. He didn't plan on defending his operation.
Two days after leaving for Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., Ness was in the middle of an investigation of unmarked substances found in his Oldsmar stable. The Daily Racing Form reported that state investigators confiscated the items, which will have their composition tested by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. The Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau conducted the search Tuesday. Ness' horses will be allowed to run while the testing takes place.
"Disturbing," Ness said Friday night from Hawthorne Race Course in Stickney-Cicero, Ill. "I was gone and don't have a lot of details. I didn't do anything wrong. I know that, and my staff knows that. My attorney has advised me not to comment any further."
Ness, 34, said this is the first time in his nine-year career that he has been the subject of such an investigation. Ness left Oldsmar on Sunday with big plans. He is expanding his operation, stabling 25 horses each at his hometown track, Canterbury Downs in Shakopee, Minn.; Thistledown in North Randall, Ohio, and Presque Isle Downs, where he will be based. Assistants will handle the horses at the other facilities.
"I've got to go where the money is better, and Presque Isle gave me the opportunity," Ness said. "More doesn't always mean more. I'm pretty hands-on and want to be with all the horses. But if I'm going to grow and get bigger, I've got to start delegating more. I'm going to try it out this year and see how it goes. If I'm not comfortable with it, I'm going back to me being the only guy."
Ness is completing his fourth year at Tampa Bay Downs. With five live racing days remaining, he has wrapped up a third consecutive title with 61 victories from 206 starts, producing purse earnings of $618,830. Ness also ranks eighth in the 2009 national win standings. "A stable changes from year to year, and I didn't have the top-end horses like last year," he said. "I thought it would be a little down year, but things came together."
Ness, who set track records last year with 68 wins and $959,710 in purse earnings, was tied in the trainer race until Feb. 18, when Castles in the Sky won, the first of 16 victories in 14 racing days for the Huron, S.D., native. The spree included four wins on March 1, tying a 2003 track mark for victories in a day. Castles in the Sky went on to win the $75,000 Turf Dash on March 14 in stakes-record time.
more trouble for Quality Road: Florida Derby winner Quality Road has another hoof problem that could knock him out of the May 2 Kentucky Derby. Considered one of the top contenders, Quality Road developed a quarter crack on the inside of his right front hoof. "We will jog him (today); if there's no blood, we can patch him," trainer Jimmy Jerkens said. "He can gallop Sunday and breeze Monday, and if he is sound Tuesday, we'll ship to Kentucky."
Information from Times wires was used in this report.