01/04/2010 12:00AM

Ness changes his focus


OLDSMAR, Fla. - Trainer Jamie Ness's 2009 season can best be described as mind-boggling. Ness won training titles here at Tampa Bay Downs and at Presque Isle, finishing the year with 258 wins, fourth best in the nation. He won with 32 percent of his starters.

This year, Ness, a 32-year-old native of South Dakota, plans to try and put the emphasis on quality instead of quantity.

"We had a fantastic year, there's no question about it, and it's one we're very proud of," Ness said after training hours recently. "But as proud as we are of having won as many races as we won, the economics of the business and the country in general dictate that we've got to point toward more quality stock. And when you've got a higher level of quality with your horses you're not going to be racing them as often as your cheaper stock, so people shouldn't be surprised to see us make fewer starts and possibly win fewer races."

Ness's biggest client is Midwest Thoroughbreds, which ranked second in the country in races won last season with 241 victories and more than $3.2 million in earings.

"While they want to win races, they also understand the need to race where purses can best support the stable," Ness said. "That's why we went to Presque Isle this summer and why we also spent some time at Penn National. Their purse structures are such that with a quality runner you get to run for optimum money when it comes to losing a horse's conditions. So this season, hopefully the races we win will be the right ones from a financial point of view."

Three of Ness's top runners last season were Repenting, War Fighter, and Castles in the Sky.

"Repenting had to undergo some more minor surgery and is in Ocala recuperating," Ness said. "War Fighter, who really came to hand last fall, won a race at Charles Town in December and we're pointing him for a race in February, while Castles in the Sky will also be shooting for a February return."

Ness is off to a solid start at this meet, with three wins from his first nine starters.

"We've claimed four horses already this meeting while trying to fill some slots for horses we lost up north to claims or injuries," he said. "Whether we'll win as many as last season remains to be seen."

Omega Cat impresses with romp

Omega Cat just toyed with a field of optional-claiming runners Saturday, sitting just off the pace before splitting rivals on the turn and going on to post an authoritative 8 1/2-length score in a race that was taken off the turf. Trainer Tom Proctor could well be looking for stakes options for the 4-year-old Omega Code filly, whose mother is a half-sister to four-time stakes winner and $434,000 earner Therecomesatiger.

Proctor posted a training double Saturday and continues to be one of the top percentage trainers on the grounds.

Stakes may be next for Dr. Zic

Dr. Zic also should be shopping for black type soon as that speedy 4-year-old filly romped to an 8 1/4-length win over allowance fillies and mares last Wednesday while covering seven furlongs in an eye-catching 1:22.90, less than a second off the track record of 1:22.28.

Phil Teator, who is making the most of his limited opportunities early in the meeting, piloted Dr. Zic for trainer Joan Scott.