03/25/2013 11:31AM

Tampa Bay Downs: Ness racing toward training title

Tom Keyser
Jamie Ness has an 11-win lead in his quest for his seventh straight Tampa Bay Downs training title.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – As the race meet at Tampa Bay Downs moves into its final six weeks, the Ness Express continues to chug toward another local training title.

Through Sunday’s racing, horses trained by Jamie Ness have won 39 races, 11 more than the runners of Jorge Navarro, and the stable continues to win races at a staggering 36 percent clip. Barring any late-season collapse, the Ness barn will wind up atop the trainer standings for the seventh straight season. (He shared the title in 2009-10 with Kathleeen O’Connell and in 2010-11 with Gerald Bennett.)

In the history of this track, only the legendary Don Rice, who captured eight training titles, has had more success here than Ness and, in fairness, Rice concentrated his efforts on the Tampa meeting alone and had mixed success at other venues around the country.

Ness, on the other hand, has been on top or near the top of the standings at several other tracks around the country, including Delaware Park, Presque Isle, and Penn National. Ness’s amazing run has included leading the country in races won in 2012.

With powerhouse owners Midwest Thoroughbreds firmly behind him, Ness looks as though he’s going to be the man to beat not only here but at a number of tracks around the country for some time to come.

Ness’s success hasn’t come due to lack of competition. Navarro, Bennett, O’Connell, and others are having strong meetings, and when there isn’t a trainer on the leader board who is winning at less than a 17 percent clip, it’s obvious those here are no bunch of pushovers.