Quietly and without much fanfare, Linda Rice has been putting up big numbers at Saratoga. With just six days remaining in the meet, the 45-year-old trainer is tied with Todd Pletcher in the trainers standings with 15 wins. Maybe most impressively, Rice's 15 wins have come from just 45 starters, 55 fewer than Pletcher.
Rice, who learned under her father, Clyde, and has had her own stable since 1987, is trying to become the first female to win the trainers title at the Spa. Though success is not new to Rice, who became the first female to win a grade I race at Keeneland and has had multiple Breeders' Cup starters, winning a trainers title at racing's most prestigious meet would likely be the biggest accomplishment of her career. I thought it would be timely to ask Rice about her recent success.
Hope you enjoy. I'm back later this week with more on Rachel's Woodward try.
JS: You're enjoying a great meet and have had success at Saratoga in the past. What is it about Saratoga that seems to bring the best out in you?
LR: (Laughs). Well, I'm not sure. We've had some luck with the weather. I have some good dirt horses and 2-year-olds too, but some of my better horses are turf horses and those races have stayed on the turf for the most part. The year before, we had a lot of rain and many races were scratched off the turf. So it helps to be lucky.
JS: You were tied for second in the 2007 Saratoga trainer standings and won six in a row at one point during that meet. It seems like it's more than just the weather that contributes to your success up there.
LR: I definitely have some good memories here. I would say my most memorable was winning all three major 2-year-old stakes races with City Zip (in 2000). Like you said, in 2007 I had a good meet and winning those six in a row was certainly fun. Also, last year I had the superfecta (when she saddled the top four finishers in the Mechanicville Stakes), which was nice. So I guess when you have success at a particular place it makes it more enjoyable.
JS: You're currently tied with Todd Pletcher in the standings. What would it mean to win a training title at Saratoga?
LR: It would obviously be an honor. I'm not sure I have enough stock left in my stable to do it, but if it happens, it happens. I just focus on putting my horses in the best spots possible spot and being the most effective with what I have. That's what you have to focus on when you have a smaller stable. I'm proud that I've been effective with what I've got. I've also had some racing luck, which you need.
JS: You also must be proud to be among the leaders in a profession dominated by males?
LR: I have three older brothers and I learned under my father. I'm third generation working with horses. So that helped. But when I was young my father told me, ‘if you were one of my sons this would a lot easier for you.' I guess I just ignored his advice. It's been a long process, but the fact that I've had some good results has made it easier.
JS: What advice would you give a young female who is looking to become a trainer today?
LR: I would say work hard and know that it will take time (to build up a stable). If I can have results, others can do it. I've had people open up doors for me, so if I can inspire others, that's great.
JS: What are some of your goals?
LR: Like I said, I am trying to be as effective with what I have as possible. But my long term goals are to be able to compete in Triple Crown races and maybe win the Travers. I'm hopeful that some of the success I've had will enable me to land some opportunities with a few larger outfits and get some better horses.
JS: Your current stable is at about 50 horses. Would having more horses make it easier for you to reach those goals?
LR: Not necessarily more horses. Size isn't as important as being able to go to a sale and buy weanlings, yearlings, and 2-year-olds without being the underbidder. The horses I've had the most success with typically have been ones that I picked out. So having more buying latitude would be nice. Im hopeful to have that oppurtunity in the future.
JS: You mentioned that you have some promising 2-year-olds. Are there any for us to keep an eye out for?
LR: I have a 2-year-old filly, Hook Me Up (by Hook and Ladder--Halfway North), who was main track only against boys because we couldn't find anything else for her. She wound up winning (by 4 1/4 lengths Aug. 24 at Saratoga). So we're excited about her. We'll look at the Lady Fingers for her.
JS: Thanks for your time Linda. Best of luck the rest of the meet.
LR: Thank you. We'll see how the last week goes.