Trainer Jaymes McAssey ventured out on his own in 2017. McAssey fell in love with harness racing as a youngster when his dad ran a small barn in Massachusetts. He was instantly hooked. Fast forward and the young conditioner has spent his adult years in the stables working for several formidable trainers such as Jordan Derue and Alicia and Shawn Gray before taking his shot with his own barn. He knew that he probably could have had some success sooner but as he told me, he “hates to lose” and didn’t want to have his own stable until he felt he was ready to not just survive but to thrive. In ’17, McAssey launched his own barn at Saratoga Casino Hotel and wasted very little time making an impact. Jaymes was named the Peerless McGrath Award winner after enjoying big time success in his “freshman” season. In his debut campaign, McAssey ended up with 29 wins and a higher than 50% “in the money” clip as his trainees finished in the top three in 67 of his 127 starts in his first year as a trainer. His training percentage of .368 in a debut season is incredible and led to him earning the honor as the track’s top up-and-coming trainer. McAssey enjoyed the best year of his career in 2020 when he ended up third in the local trainer standings and then followed it up with another top ten finish last season. The 31 year old is once again thriving this year sitting fourth among local trainers at the Spa in ‘22. All the while, Jaymes is racing at Plainridge Park in his native Massachusetts as he has for the last several years and is thriving in competition there as well.
While Jaymes can now be considered a “veteran” after piling up now almost 300 wins and close to $2.5 million in purses earned, his younger brother Jesse is quickly coming into his own as a trainer as well. Like his big bro, Jesse McAssey quickly fell in love with racing as a kid. Jaymes would help at his dad’s barn but after he relocated to Saratoga, he left one horse behind for his dad and brother to train. Jesse bought his first horse as a teenager and quickly enjoyed a bit of a rags- to-riches story when his $3,000 purchase turned into an Open pacer. From there, Jesse was truly hooked and knew he wanted to make harness racing a career. A few years after his brother Jaymes made the move, Jesse McAssey relocated to Saratoga.
In 2018, Jesse came to the Spa and began working in the stables. The young trainer always kept one horse of his own while maintaining work as an assistant in a stable. He continued this for a couple years until somewhat recently going out on his own. This season, the 25 year old McAssey has the biggest stable of his career. He manages his barn with the help of his girlfriend Jackie Ellsworth, who has been around horses for most of her life as well. Currently, they work on Jesse’s eight horses, the most he’s had at any time in his young career. And the barn isn’t just growing, it’s succeeding.
Jesse told me that coming into the ’22 campaign, he had set a goal of winning fifteen races. That may not sound like a lot but for a trainer who never had more than a few horses at a time and whose career-high was five wins, winning fifteen races is no easy feat. Heading into action on the weekend of October 15-17, Jesse had already piled up 18 victories on the season with only two of those wins coming at tracks outside of Saratoga. “I like racing here,” Jesse told me. “I’m stabled here and it’s difficult to run a barn and also ship when it’s just two of us taking care of things. I’ve raced a couple at Plainridge here and there. A few at Vernon Downs but mostly it’s here.” In fact, all of McAssey’s wins this year have come locally with the exception the two which took place at the Fairs this summer. Jesse’s local win total of 18 went up in what was a weekend highlighted by a few firsts for the up-and-coming trainer.
McAssey’s weekend kicked off with a victory when his Always A Charmer prevailed in his local debut. The following day, a rising trotting star out of Jesse’s stable made an untimely break. Summit City Sonny made a miscue but rallied to finish third in the first leg of the Jim Derue Memorial Trotting Series in a start that his trainer believes he would have had a big chance to win if not for making that break. Heading into Sunday’s second leg, Summit City Sonny had hit the board in each of his starts since being acquired by McAssey this summer. And although the disappointment of Summit City Sonny being defeated as the favorite in his first leg of the series, McAssey bounced right back the following day.
On Monday’s matinee, Jesse enjoyed a memorable day on an afternoon in which he had three horses in to go, two of which who were competing in the Bunny Lake Pacing Series for fillies and mares. Grahams Teddy Bear scored in her $12,500 division of the series for the ladies and as if the win wasn’t good enough, it was made a little extra special when the victory wrapped up a McAssey early daily double. Big brother Jaymes recorded a win in the afternoon’s first race with young filly Red Dirt Hot Shot so when Grahams Teddy Bear prevailed in the matinee’s second race, it marked the first time that the brothers comprised both halves of a daily double. Jesse’s day became even better when a mare that he owns named Sleazy Rolls completed a training double that Monday for the young conditioner. It marked just the second time in the young career of Jesse McAssey that he recorded a pair of wins on a card. According to him though, Jesse the day could have been a clean sweep as he had another filly in the Bunny Lake Pace who he has high hopes for. “Ol Little Shift is a filly to watch out of my barn,” the rising star told me. “She’s had a lot going on and has been racing really well. She had to square off with Racey Rach N (a winner of ten consecutive races at the Spa) and got parked the mile. The week before she had been off a month and finished a really good second. I think she’s got a good chance of being the best horse I have in my barn.”
While young conditioner Chris Dubois has to be considered a big favorite for the Peerless McGrath Award this season, Jesse McAssey could well be a nominee for an honor that he admits has at least crossed his mind before. “I’ve never had a big enough stable to be considered for the award but it’s something my brother won and would be fun to be nominated for,” Jesse admitted. As far as his future goals, Jesse says he would love to race here at Saratoga with a stable of about ten horses. One thing he mentioned as something that he strives to do is to develop a horse into an Open pacer or trotter in the near future. In the meantime, while Jesse has piled up more starts, wins and purse money in his breakout 2022 campaign than in all his previous years combined, his brother Jaymes is also enjoying a career-best season. An old crafty veteran at the age of 31, Jaymes has secured more wins and purse money earned than in any of his previous years and is about to reach the 300 win and $2.5 million purse plateau for his still young career. And while the majority of his success has come locally, Jaymes does travel to Plainridge quite a bit to compete at his old stomping grounds in Massachusetts. When I asked him about his brother’s breakout season, Jaymes’ response was pretty simple. “He’s a hard worker. He’s doing great and expanding. I’m proud of him,” he said. And with good reason. Jesse McAssey appears to be a trainer who is here to stay and one to watch in the coming years while he continues to rise up the trainer standings as his stable continues to grow. He and Jaymes can now add a daily double sweep to their resume on what was a pretty special afternoon in what has been a memorable year at the Spa for the brothers.
Live racing takes place every Saturday evening starting at 5pm and continues on Sunday and Monday afternoons with first post times set for 12 noon. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!