Sports Outside the Beltway

Linda Rice is Saratoga’s leading trainer for 2009

Her father, Clyde Rice, is a thoroughbred trainer also. From the Daily Racing Form-

Linda Rice held off Todd Pletcher by one winner, 20-19, at Saratoga to become the first female in the modern era to win a trainer’s title at a major U.S. racing circuit.

“It means the world to me,” said Rice, the 44-year-old daughter of trainer Clyde Rice. “It’s been a lot of work, a long time coming, and it’s a real honor to compete at the greatest racetrack in the world and to come out with the training title.”

Rice started 75 horses, 60 less than Pletcher. Pletcher, a six-time leading trainer at Saratoga, finished with 19 wins but 28 seconds from 135 starters.

“When you run second 28 times, it’s only fitting that you finish second in the meet,” Pletcher said. “It’s a little bit frustrating. Linda had a great meet. It’s quite an accomplishment. She should be proud.”

Neither Rice nor Pletcher won a race over the last two days of the meet, but the two were quite active on Sunday and Monday. The two were never more than two wins apart since Aug. 12.

I find it interesting that Rice’s feat was a first in thoroughbred racing history. As I’ve related in the past, I grew up around the world of standardbred(harness horse racing). Female drivers aren’t uncommon at all. In the early 80′s, one of Pompano Park’s top drivers was Bea Farber. Bea didn’t train the horses she drove, her husband Charles did. There are top female trainers in the sport today. Brooke Nickells, the daughter of my late father’s business partner trainer/driver Bruce Nickells, is one example.

With the end of racing in Saratoga, the thoroughbreds return to the New York City area. Businesses in Saratoga can start charging regular prices again. I visited Saratoga with my father in August 1972(we had a horse racing in the New York Sire Stakes at Saratoga’s harness track) and while we were there all Dad did was complain about the prices for food and lodging.

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