By: Matt Hegarty
Jamie Ness has reached a settlement with Florida regulators in which the trainer will serve a 100-day suspension stemming from multiple clenbuterol positives in 2012 while being able to transfer his horses to his wife and his assistant, the trainer confirmed Wednesday.
Ness, who once ran one of the most prolific operations in the country, starting in excess of 1,000 horses each year from 2010-12, said on Wednesday that the suspension started on Sunday. Approximately 25 of his horses stabled at Tampa Bay Downs are now being trained by his wife, Mandy, while approximately 30 other horses at Laurel Park in Maryland and Parx racetrack outside Philadelphia are being trained by his assistant, Cory Jensen.
Ness said he reached the settlement with the state’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering over 12 positives for the regulated bronchodilator clenbuterol in 2012. During that year, the state’s regulatory authority called more than 100 positives for the drug after implementing a new standard for testing in the state.
“It’s unfortunate it took this long, but Florida is a little different than other states, and I’m glad it’s over with,” Ness said. “It’s nobody’s fault but my own.”
Ness’s wife, Mandy, has been listed as his assistant trainer for years. The couple has run a large claiming operation over the years, with 2,611 wins from 10,247 starts, for a strike rate of 25.5 percent. Jamie Ness has also been cited for a dozen medication overages since 2006. He won or shared the training title at Tampa Bay Downs for nine consecutive years before Gerald Bennett won the title for the 2015-16 season.
Ness will be denied access to track grounds during his suspension, but the ability to transfer the horses to a family member and his assistant will dilute the impact of the penalty on Ness’s earnings. Many racing jurisdictions over the past several years have attempted to block trainers from transferring horses to individuals with a financial connection to the suspended trainer, but those rules generally do not go into effect unless the sanction involved a performance-enhancing drug.
Ness said he planned to spend more time with his two daughters, ages 2 and 4, while suspended.
“They’re happy they get to see their dad every morning, which hasn’t been the case ever,” Ness said. “All I’ve ever done is train. I’ll do the Mr. Mom thing for a while.”
Although clenbuterol is approved for therapeutic use in horses, the drug has been more tightly regulated over the past five years because of its ability to build muscle mass when used regularly. In 2012, according to horsemen’s officials, Florida’s drug-testing laboratory began calling positives for the drug at a lower concentration than it had in previous years, resulting in a spate of violations in the state.
Officials of the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering did not immediately respond to requests for information about the settlement.