Heritage Meet Leading Trainer Going Down to Wire

Heritage Meet Leading Trainer Going Down to Wire

Ness Leads Russell by Two Wins Entering Final Weekend
Laurel Doors Open at 8:30 A.M. Saturday for Dubai WC
Nominations Close Saturday for Four $100K Stakes April 13

LAUREL, MD – While Jaime Rodriguez has already secured Laurel Park’s winter Heritage Meet riding title, the race for leading trainer is still very much up for grabs entering the final weekend.

Laurel will host 10-race programs Friday and Saturday to close the 34-day stand, which began Jan. 5. Post time both days is 12:25 p.m.

Rodriguez teamed up with trainer Jamie Ness for four winners on the last live program Sunday, clinching the 32-year-old Puerto Rico native’s second straight winter meet riding title and fourth overall in Maryland. He has 46 wins to 28 for runner-up Jeiron Barbosa, who is named in seven races over the weekend.

Ness leads Brittany Russell, 26-23, in the trainer standings with horses in five races Friday and one Saturday. Russell, whose $973,955 in purse earnings rank first over Ness by just $1,945, has horses entered in four races Friday and two Saturday.

Russell, 34, made history in 2023 as the first woman to lead all trainers in wins at Laurel and historic Pimlico Race Course with 118, five more than runner-up Ness. Russell won Pimlico’s Preakness and fall meets as well as Laurel’s fall stand while Ness, 49, topped the standings at Laurel winter and summer.

Ness, as Jagger Inc., has partnered for 11 wins in the owner standings. Together, Ness and Morris Kernan Jr. have six wins, one more than Ness and Madison Avenue Racing Stable.

Friday’s feature comes in Race 9, a 5 ½-furlong allowance for Maryland-bred/sired fillies and mares 4 and up that drew a field of nine led by 9-5 program favorite Touisset, a 3 ½-length winner of an open, six-furlong allowance last out March 1 at Laurel over Brzina, who came back with a popular two-length triumph three weeks later. Trainer Kieron Magee counters with the pair of Whatsyourbigidea, third to subsequent stakes winner Too Many Kisses Feb. 17 at Laurel, and Devil Pays in Gold, second in a similar spot going six furlongs March 8.

There will be carryovers of $13,079.21 in the 20-cent Rainbow 6 (Races 5-10) and $9,690.97 in the $1 Jackpot Super High Five (Race 6) on Friday’s card.

On Saturday, Russell will send out Mindtap and Frightland in the Race 8 co-feature, a second-level optional claiming allowance for 4-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles. Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Mindtap, a $725,000 Tapit yearling, was fourth as the favorite at the same level last out Feb. 17 after winning his first two tries since joining Russell’s barn. Frightland, bred and owned by Sycamore Hall Thoroughbreds, has won two straight including a restricted 1 1/8-mile allowance triumph March 1.

In Race 9, a second-level optional claiming allowance for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles, DEA Thoroughbred Racing’s Patty Cakes chases her fourth consecutive win and first since being claimed from Ness by trainer Horacio Depaz for $32,000 out of a 5 ¼-length score going one mile March 9. Graham Motion-trained She’sarollingstone won an entry-level allowance at the course and distance March 10.

Laurel will open its doors at 8:30 a.m. Saturday to accommodate wagering on the Dubai World Cup Day program from Meydan Racecourse beginning with Race 3, the Dubai Gold Cup, with an 8:40 a.m. post time. The Dubai World Cup is carded as Race 9 with a post time of 12:35 p.m.

Saturday at Laurel’s sister track, Gulfstream Park, is a blockbuster 14-race program featuring 10 stakes, five graded, worth $2.425 million in purses anchored by the $1 million Curlin Florida Derby (G1) presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa for 3-year-olds, one of the country’s leading Triple Crown preps. First race post time at Gulfstream is 11:30 a.m.

Free nominations close Saturday for four $100,000 stakes scheduled to kick off Laurel’s spring meet stakes calendar Saturday, April 13 – the 1 1/8-mile Native Dancer and seven-furlong Frank Y. Whiteley Jr. for 3-year-olds and up, and one-mile Heavenly Cause and six-furlong Primonetta for fillies and mares 3 and older.

To nominate, email stakes coordinator Eleanor Albert at Eleanor.Albert@marylandracing.com or call the racing office at 1-301-725-0400. Entries will be taken and post positions drawn Sunday, April 7 for all four stakes.