Young Conditioner on a Tear at the Spa

It seems at times that Jaymes McAssey operates under the radar at the Saratoga Casino Hotel. It certainly isn’t because of a lack of success or at this point even a lack of sustainability. Perhaps it is due to the fact that he runs a smaller size stable than most of the more recognizable, “big” names among local trainers. And yes, he’s a young trainer that doesn’t have the history at the Spa that so many other veteran conditioners do but Jaymes has fared incredibly well in his thus far short time at Saratoga. Jaymes “caught the racing bug” at a young age after growing up in a harness racing family. His dad ran a small stable in Massachusetts and Jaymes and his brother Jesse fell in love with the sport a long time ago. Jaymes moved to Saratoga several years back to work as an assistant to trainer Jordan Derue. He bounced around a bit, helping Shawn and Alicia Gray in their stable at one point before going off on his own a few years ago.

Jaymes felt like he probably could have started his own stable a little bit before he did but being someone who “hates to lose” as he told me, McAssey wanted to make sure he was truly ready before launching his training career. He did that in 2017 and wasted very little time before enjoying success.  In 2017, McAssey earned the Peerless McGrath Award at Saratoga, an honor given to the track’s top up-and-coming trainer that year. That season was the rookie campaign for McAssey whose first career start as a trainer came at Yonkers in the winter of ’17. After just two races downstate, McAssey debuted locally once our meet kicked off in February. There were no growing pains for the young conditioner who enjoyed immediate success in what now can be viewed as a foreshadow for what was to come. Jaymes won his first, second and third career starts at Saratoga with a young pacer named Moonlight Spin. When I asked Jaymes what his emotions were when he won his first ever race, he explained that it felt like it was a long time coming. “I felt like I’d been around for a long time. I had certainly cut my teeth in the business but I just didn’t want to do it before I was ready. I might have even waited too long but I just wanted to be sure that I could succeed once I got started. I hate to lose and take losing very hard so I was just reluctant to launch and fail before I felt completely comfortable,” McAssey explained.

To call his freshman campaign a breakout one would be an understatement. 2017 was simply sensational for Jaymes who thrived right out of the gate. While still managing a relatively small stable, McAssey finished up his season with 29 wins and at 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 thus at the conclusion of that year, he was awarded the Peerless McGrath honors. And he was just getting started!

2018 brought on much of the same for McAssey. In fact, with the exception of his average, Jaymes’ numbers all went up in his sophomore season. He started to acquire some new owners and began to feature a bit larger of a stable last year. Jaymes got hooked up with longtime Saratoga owners Dennis and Simone Noud through their connection with Billy Dobson. Dobson, the meet’s leading driver, runs the Monica Krist stable on a farm where Jaymes was also located at one point. The Nouds have horses with Dobson but when he looked to reduce the size of his stable, he recommended Jaymes to the Nouds. They brought pacers Sassy Hanover and Delightful Joe to McAssey last year, a move that has worked out very well.

Sassy Hanover competed in the $12,500 Winners Over pace on Saturday night just two weeks after setting a 1:53.2 seasonal mark prevailing in a condition race at the Spa. Though Jaymes acknowledged that the eight year old veteran pacer is maybe a bit past his prime of his career, he noted that Sassy Hanover still has something left in the tank and is showing it. Despite having only two wins this year, Sassy Hanover has hit the board in 15 of his 28 starts and is enjoying another solid campaign in 2019. The Nouds’ Delightful Joe, on the other hand, is on the upswing and is just two weeks removed from setting a lifetime mark. The four year old pacer completed a double on the Saturday card two weeks ago for McAssey and the Nouds when he stopped the timer in 1:53. “He is going to be a star,” McAssey predicted to me about Delightful Joe. “I think he is a future Open horse. He’s a really nice horse and keeps getting better,” Jaymes beamed. The Nouds know something about Open horses, too, as their In A Single Bound owns four wins this year in the $15,000 local Open Pace including one he recorded on the same evening a couple of weeks ago in which Sassy Hanover and Delightful Joe scored victories. In A Single Bound, who competes out of the Monica Krist stable, rounded out a rare owner’s triple that night for Dennis and Simone Noud.

Last Thursday afternoon, McAssey recorded another training double when two lady pacers out of his barn pulled off mild upsets. Mistress Angelina and Maggnifispin added victories to the bulky total for McAssey as they paid $9.80 and $21.40 to win in their upset scores. Mistress Angelina’s win was the third in her last four starts while Maggnifispin’s victory was her second in four weeks for the surging McAssey stable. Chris Long piloted both of Jaymes’ winners on Thursday for owner Robert Arzano of New Jersey. Arzano is new to the McAssey barn this year after getting hooked up with the young conditioner through connections Jaymes met while working in New Jersey for a year or so.

Though Saratoga is home for him now, McAssey’s Massachusetts connections remain strong. He still takes a few horses to Plainridge to race from time to time where he has been teaming up with young reinsman Mitch Cushing. Jaymes encouraged Cushing to come to Saratoga to drive which the 21 year old rising star has done a bit in recent weeks. On Saturday, Cushing recorded his first ever win in a local Open as he guided Betterlatethnnever to victory in the evening’s $15,000 feature. Jaymes’ brother Jesse is a trainer as well and after racing a few at Plainridge for awhile has returned to town where he now assists in the Eve Bergeron stable. As for Jaymes, the 2019 season has been a career one for the almost 28 year old conditioner who has propelled himself into the top ten in the local trainer standings after riding a recent hot streak at the Spa. McAssey has already eclipsed his win total from ’18 as his steady improvement has continued in this just his third full season as a trainer.

Live racing takes place every Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday afternoon at Saratoga starting at 12 Noon and on Saturday evening each week with first post time set for 6:45pm. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!

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