01/26/2008 12:00AM

Ness winning at sizzling 34-percent clip


OLDSMAR, Fla. - Many of the names have changed from the 2006-07 season, but the results have been much the same through the first seven weeks of this meeting. For one, Jamie Ness is running a lot of horses and winning a lot of races.

Ness, who came on strong in the final month last spring to win 38 races and his first training title, shipped in from Chicago, and after a short period to adjust from the long trip and change in climate, Ness began running horses and winning at a tremendous clip. Through Friday's program Ness had 47 starters and 16 winners, a win rate of 34 percent. Claiming horses make up the bulk of his barn and he remains busy at the claim box, taking runners to replace the ones lost, and adding new stock as well. Through Friday, Ness had claimed eight runners at the current stand.

"This season we planned on coming in here with more strength," Ness said. "We went to Canterbury this summer and won 52 races but also lost a number of horses. Then when we shipped to Chicago, they were claiming off us like crazy when we first got there.

"They do a lot of claiming at Hawthorne, and I'd say we probably lost and had to replace 20 to 25 horses. My owners want to make money, and in this business to make money you have to win races, and to win races you've got to run horses where they can win. That means you're going to lose some of those horses to claims. The flip side is you can also claim others who are running where they belong. Or even better, take one, and improve and move them up."

Often a single horse can jump-start a trainer's career, and in Ness's case the "big horse" is Lookinforthesecret. He claimed Lookinforthesecret for $12,500 here last season and the 6-year-old gelding recently set a stakes record of 1:09.30 for six furlongs in the Pelican Stakes. It was Lookinforthesecret's eighth win under Ness' care. Lookinforthesecret has won in the neighborhood of $250,000 for the barn, Ness said, and is the spark that put his training career on the map.

"He's the best horse I've ever had, bar none, and he's the one that allowed us to set up an operation like we have today," Ness said.

Newcomers making noise

There have been some new faces and names in the training and riding colonies that have made noise in their first season locally.

Trainer Michael Catalano Jr. had a solid record heading into Saturday, having saddled 4 winners from 6 starters. Michael Simone had 5 winners, the same amount as Mike Dini.

Jose Velez Jr had ridden 24 winners while riding here regularly for the first time, and Rosemary Homemeister Jr. had 23. Pablo Morales had 16 winners and Juan D. Lopez 14.