Jamaica Rises to a Select Group
By Mike Paradise for the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association
What statistics determine whether a trainer did a stellar job with his or her horses in their barn? Money won? Number of victories?
Maybe, but the number of horses in the barn, the quality of the stock, the amount of racing dates in the state, and the purse structure they’re racing for, all have a major impact on money earned and number of wins.
If instead the answer is getting the most out of the hand a trainer is dealt, then you’ll have to agree that Mississippi native Jamaica Patton did one heck of a job last year for his owners.
Jamaica generated a UTRS of .377, tops for an Illinois based conditioner and eleventh nationally for trainers who started between 300 and 499 horses.
The 43-year-old Patton, who resides in Rochester, Illinois, a suburb of Springfield, was also among the best in the country as a driver with 300 to 499 opportunities, posting a sparkling .386 UDRS, good for fifth place nationwide.
“I’m proud of those stats,” said Jamaica. And rightly so I might add.
It’s been a long road filled with downs and downs for Jamaica like most Mississippi horsemen who ventured up over the last few decades to the Illinois County Fair Circuit and eventually to the Chicago harness racing circle.
Jamaica began driving horses in Mississippi in 1997 when he was 17-year-old. He had an even dozen drives and two winners. The same year his one-horse stable had just a single start.
“I remember my first winner,” said Jamaica. “His name was Rocco Porter, and it was at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia (Mississippi).”
One year later Jamaica trained his first winner when he guided Hollys Dreamfinder to victory at the Pinckneyville, Illinois Fair.
Twenty-five years have passed since with the hard-working Mississippian toiled his way to an elite grouping in 2022.
I met Jamaica in the Balmoral Park winner’s circle on Super Night 2008 when he guided the 40-1 longshot My Birthday to an upset victory in the Lady Ann Reed three-year-old filly trot championship for trainer Herman Wheeler.
Three years later we got reacquainted in the Balmoral Park winner’s circle on Super Night 2011, this time after Jamaica steered the ICF filly trotter Maple Grover Shaelyn to victory in the Lady Ann Reed showdown for trainer Joseph Mullins.
Last year Patton had 357 horses go to the gate and posted 83 wins, 62 seconds and 51 thirds, with $389,830 in purse earnings, more than $140,000 better than the previous year.
The star of Jamaica’s stable was Fox Valley Langley, the 2022 Illinois Two-Year-Old Colt Pacer of the Year. The multi stakes winner made $57,480 and took a mark of 1:52 flat for Illinois owners Lyle Lipe (Springfield) and Melvin Schoneweis. The Somestarsomewhere offspring captured seven of eleven races to go along with a pair of seconds.
Patton’s five-year-old ICF trotter Heath Bar delivered $84,245 for the trio of Lipe, Ron Phillips (Athens, IL) and Sharry Boledovich (Lakewood, CO), more than twice as much as the trotter did in his previous two seasons. The 11-time winner captured a pair of in-state Opens and was third in both the $50,000 summer and the $62,000 Night of Champions Plesac stakes at Hawthorne.
At the age of nine, Primed N Powerful, another son of Psychic Spirit, had his best racing season money-wise with over $77,000 banked for co-owners Boledovich and Jamaica.
Deputy Dawg, a son of the Illinois sire World of Rocknroll, and Judge Me Not, out of the Prairie state’s trotting stud Can’s Afford It, had promising two-year-old campaigns for Patton.
The pacer Deputy Dawg carried out a busy first season of racing with 21 starts and was first or second in 18 of them, winning ten, and making over $31,000 for proprietor Detricke Kelly of Canton, Mississippi.
Judge Me Not, put $31,230 on his first season card and was victorious four times in 15 trips to the gate for the threesome of Phillips, Boledovich and Patton. The homebred was the runner-up in the $50,000 Governor’s Cup at the Du Quoin State Fair.