Jaime Rodriguez, Jamie Ness take Laurel meet titles

Though winless on Friday’s closing day program, jockey Jaime Rodriguez and trainer Jamie Ness formally claimed their meet titles as Laurel Park lowered the curtain on its calendar year-opening winter stand.

Rodriguez, 32, was blanked on three mounts but finished with a 58-49 advantage over apprentice Jeiron Barbosa, who captured Friday’s opener aboard Cloud Music ($4.20) and Race 7 with Prove Right ($4.60). It is the first riding title in Maryland for Rodriguez, Delaware Park’s leading rider in 2021 and 2022 who is 27 away from 2,000 career victories.

“I love it here. I love it in the wintertime,” Rodriguez said. “Everything has come out good so far, thank God. I have been able to keep myself healthy and keep working hard.”

Rodriguez, a native of Puerto Rico, registered two or more wins on 18 of 40 days during the winter meet highlighted by a record-tying seven on March 17, matching Laurel’s single-day record shared by Chuck Baltazar (1969) and Horacio Karamanos (2002).

Half of Rodriguez’s wins were on Ness horses, but both his stakes victories came for other trainers. He captured the $100,000 Miracle Wood on Coffeewithchris for John Salzman Jr. and the $75,000 Conniver with Mavilus for Carlos Mancilla.

“We have a pretty good relationship. I trust him, and he trusts me, too. Everything that we do, we do as a team and we go from there. That’s how we work,” Rodriguez said of Ness. “I ride a lot for him, but the same effort I give to him I’m going to give to everyone. I’m not picky. Whatever I’ve got, I’m going to give 100 percent.”

Rodriguez has also won riding titles at the last two Delaware Park meets.

Ness, 48, went winless with two starters and wound up with a four-win cushion, 34-30, over Brittany Russell, who won with Blowthruyelowlites ($6) in Race 5 and Strong Finish ($5) in Race 8. Ness now owns six Maryland training titles, three each at Laurel and Pimlico Race Course. This was his first since Pimlico’s spring 2019 stand.

“Obviously, we had a great meet,” Ness said. “The races went for our horses. We’ve got a little better quality horses right now. We’ve got some good stock. The weather was good all winter, so we didn’t have a lot of cancellations or miss a lot of training. I’m really happy for me and the team and the owners and everybody. Everybody works hard, and good things happen.”

Together, Rodriguez and Ness won 29 of 101 races at the meet for purses of $1,001,103. Rodriguez was also tops with $1.925 million in purse earnings while Ness was second to Russell with $1.233 million. Ness’ Jagger Inc. and partner Morris Kernan Jr. also finished as leading owner with 10 wins.