04/16/2012 12:23PM

Tampa Bay notes: Ness enjoying record-breaking meet

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Tom Keyser
With three weeks left, trainer Jamie Ness has already set a meet record for wins at Tampa Bay Downs.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – The meet at Tampa Bay Downs has three weeks to go and there’s little question the biggest news story has been the amazing success of the Midwest Thoroughbred horses trained by Jamie Ness.

Through 81 days of racing, Ness has sent out 71 winners from 155 starters, a figure that has already broken the record for races won at a meeting of 68, which Ness set during the 2007-2008 meeting. Horses trained by Ness have been winning at a blistering 46 percent clip, which has to rank among the best at any meet by a trainer with so many starters.

To put the figures in prospective, Ness has sent out 45 more winners than Gerald Bennett, who is ranked second in the trainer standings with 26 wins.

The Ness juggernaut has slowed a bit in recent days, and according to the trainer there will be fewer Midwest runners in the entries in the coming weeks.

“We’ve run a lot of horses thus far this meet and right now we’re in the process of shipping many of our runners either to the farm or to Delaware, Maryland, or Penn National,” Ness said. “As a matter of fact, I’m in Delaware today working to get the barn set up here.”

Ness was asked if he had any indication coming into the meeting that the barn would have this kind of success.

“No, nothing like this,” he said. “ I knew we would be coming here with a number of fresh horses and that always gives you an advantage over an outfit that has to grind it out month after month. Being able to cycle our stock from the track to the farm and back is crucial to our success. Even if you’ve got a decent kind of horse you can’t pound on them for long periods, you’ve got to learn to back off and give them some time to regroup both physically and mentally, A fresh horse will often exceed your expectations, but not a sour, tired one.”

Ness, who leads the nation in wins with 125 through April 15, will concentrate his stock on the East Coast this summer.

“We’re going to headquarter at Delaware again this year and we’ll also have horses at Bowie in Maryland as well as some runners at Penn National,” he said. “We had a good summer here last season and hope to do well again this year.”

Ness was quick to point out that his organization plays a big part in the stable’s success,

“We’ve got a heck of a crew from my wife Mandy on down to our grooms and hotwalkers. They put in a lot of time and hard work and you couple that with an owner who is a blue collar kind of guy and wants to win and that’s your secret to success.”

White Merlot needs time off

Trainer Robert Smith reports that White Merlot came out of her fifth-place finish to It’s Tricky in the Grade 2, $200,000 Distaff at Aqueduct with a good bit of mucus in her nasal passages.

“She was a three on a scale of one to five as far as mucus after the race,” Smith said. “I knew after they went a quarter-mile she wasnt comfortable, and then when they went into the turn and Pablo [Morales] asked her and her head went up I knew something was wrong.”

White Merlot, who beat It’s Me Mom here two races back, will get some freshening then will be pointed for some sprint stakes at Calder this summer.