Ness, Rodriguez top Laurel Park winter standings

Jamie Ness pulled away in late stages to win the Laurel Park winter meet training title, winning eight races in the last two racing weekends while his nearest pursuer, Brittany Russell, won once.

Ness finished the meet with 28 wins to Russell’s 24. Kieron Magee won 21 races to finish third. Russell last year edged Ness to make history as the first woman to lead all trainers in annual wins at Laurel and Pimlico Race Course.

Ness won last year’s winter meet title at Laurel, 34-30, over Russell, whom he also edged at Laurel summer, 27-22. Russell won Pimlico’s Preakness and fall stands and topped Ness, 37-36, at Laurel fall. Overall, Russell finished with 118 wins in Maryland to 113 for Ness.

“It feels great,” Ness said. “It seems like me and Brittany always come down to the last couple days. She’s a young, up-and-coming trainer, and it’s nice to be in a trainer’s duel. I’ve been in a lot of them over the years and been on the short end a couple times. We were able to finish this meet real strong.”

Ness’s 28 wins at the meet were 1.51 wins fewer than expectations, based on the takeout-adjusted odds of his runners. That equates to -0.33 wins above expectations per 25 starts.

Magee was the meet leader in total wins above expectations. His 21 victories were 4.35 more than his odds would have predicted, and he edged Jose Corrales (12 wins, 4.29 above expectations) in the category. Antonio Machado, who won with seven of 25 starters, led in wins above expectations per 25 starts, grabbing 3.18 more wins per 25 starts than his odds would have predicted.

Ness’s go-to jockey, Jaime Rodriguez, dominated the winter meet standings, leading gate to wire. Rodriguez won with 50 of 202 starters. His nearest pursuer, Jeiron Barbosa, won 29 times.

[Visit the Handicapping Page to see wins above expectations for all Laurel Park jockeys and trainers]

Rodriguez’s 50 wins equated to 4.33 wins above expectations (1.07 wins above expectations per 50 starts). That left him just behind Raul Mena, whose 16 wins were 4.42 more than his odds would have predicted. Mychel Sanchez, who won with seven of 26 mounts, led in wins above expectations per 50 starts, earning 3.63 more wins per 50 races than his odds would have predicted.

Ness, 49, is coming off a 2023 season where his horses earned a career-best $11.2 million in purses to go along with 349 wins, the fifth time he has topped the 300-win mark including a personal best 395 in 2012. He ranked second in North America in wins last year and third in both 2022 (326) and 2021 (311).

A South Dakota native, Ness began his racing career in the media relations department at Canterbury Park in Minnesota, where he won his first race in August 1999. At Laurel he won both his 2,000th race with Caylee’s Song Nov. 28, 2013 and his 4,000th with Sing Scat July 16, 2023.

Rodriguez won three meet titles in 2023 and began 2024 with three consecutive hat tricks, winning three times each on January 5, 6, and 7. From there he never looked back.

“I have to thank all the owners and trainers that help me,” Rodriguez said. “All the hard rides I give to Jamie Ness I’m going to give all my horses, whoever puts me on. We’re going to keep working.”

Jaime Rodriguez. Photo by Jim McCue.
Jamie Ness. Photo by Jim McCue.