By Doug McCoy
One of the most successful partnerships in Thoroughbred racing—Midwest Thoroughbreds and trainer Jamie Ness—ended quietly with a phone call the week of Feb. 15.
"I received a phone call last week informing me that the horses I had here and in Maryland for Midwest would be picked up by van on a certain date," Ness said, "and that was pretty much it."
Ness began training for Midwest Thoroughbreds owner Richard Papiese in 2009, and in the seven-plus years since Midwest has dominated the national standings in races won. Midwest led the nation in races won four straight years from 2010-13 and set a record for races won in 2012 with 542 and $10,145,328 in earnings.
While Midwest has raced divisions with other trainers at different tracks, the most successful from a races-won standpoint has been handled by Ness.
"I admit I'm disappointed," Ness said. "Nobody likes to lose any horses. There were some individuals of Midwest's we had worked hard to develop and had high hopes for, but it's a business and sometimes business decisions are made you're not happy about.
"But I look at it this way. For every door that closes, another opens. We're fortunate the owners we have now are the type that want quality stock and want to succeed, but they also want to have fun. I've got two kids now and while I still have the drive to win, I also have family to consider.
"We've got 65 head, we've got some nice young horses, and I feel confident we'll be just fine. We had a good run with Midwest and I wish them well in the future."
Papiese couldn't be reached for comment on the developments. Midwest in recent years has had success at the highest level with two Illinois homebreds trained by Roger Brueggemann: Work All Week, the 2014 Xpressbet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) winner, and The Pizza Man, winner of last year's Arlington Million (gr. IT).
Ness currently ranks second in the trainer standings at Tampa Bay Downs behind Gerald Bennett with 29 wins, nine of them for Midwest, and overall has 31 victories this year through Feb. 21.
Midwest won 219 races in 2014 and 217 races last year. In the seven years Ness and Midwest had been together, the stable won more than 2,300 races; Ness estmated that about 1,500 came with his trainees.
In recent years the trainer has branched out slowly, racing some horses for himself under Jagger Inc. and has also taken on other owners and ownership groups.