Linda Rice Podcast - Listen Now!

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Linda Rice bio


Ron:  This is Ron Mitchell of Talkin’ Horses podcast.  Today, we’re privileged to have as our guest, Linda Rice. 

Linda made history earlier this year when she became the first female trainer to win the training title at Saratoga, beating out Todd Pletcher for that title.

Linda, thanks for taking your time to join us.

Linda:  You’re very welcome, Ron, I’m happy to do so.

Ron:  First of all, I think as most of our readers and listeners know, you grew up in a horse family down in Florida.  Can you just tell us briefly what you learned from that experience of your family’s background, working with horses from an early age?

Linda:  Well, I am a third generation horse trainer and grew up in Pennsylvania, actually,  and my father was the leading trainer for over ten years as I was a teenager, and by the time I… and I’ve got three older brothers and they’re all in the business and their families are in the business.

My family relocated to Ocala, Florida when I went off to college and that’s where they currently live now and they operate training centers there – breaking and training centers.

That’s how I got my start.

Ron:  And I guess obviously that background is what prepared you for what eventually became your career.

Linda:  Yes, it is.

Ron: Starting with the questions from our readers, this one is from Bill Hirsch, whom I believe is a client and a friend – Linda, congrats on winning the Spa training title.  Has that success brought you additional business and what kind of social life do you have?

So two distinctly different questions there.

Linda:  Yes, and that does not surprise me from Mr. Hirsch.  Well, I’ve received some phone calls.  Most of them are congratulatory calls, but I hope that in the coming year  that I do find myself in a position to train maybe a little higher caliber horse, possibly some horses that will run a classic distance.  So I hope that winning a training title will put me in a position to do that.

Ron:  Your social life, if any?

Linda:  My social life, frankly, someone like myself works too much so that’s (social life) limited.

Ron:  I mean, would you like to change both things?  Would you like to get a bump up in your business and a bump up in your social life?

Linda:  {chuckles}  Yes, actually I would.  Obviously it’s a balancing act (personal life and work) and as far as my business goes, I’m not really trying to increase the volume of horses that I train, but more the caliber, and that’s what I’m looking for.

Ron:  Next question – Which aspects of training do you like best – either  working with the horses or the job itself and which do you like least?

Linda:  The most rewarding to me is that I shop a lot of auctions  weanlings, yearlings, 2-year-olds.  I shop horses off of farms, and when I buy a horse, a young horse, possibly even a weanling, and then direct its career and develop it into a successful racehorse and then when it goes on to win stakes races and do well for myself and my clients, that’s very rewarding. It’s kind of like painting a Picasso, and I get a lot of reward out of that.

The worst, I would say, would be when we have a horse that has shown a lot of promise and we lose that horse due to an injury.  It’s both a financial and an emotional loss for myself and my clients.  That’s difficult.

Ron:  So both of these really are the highs and lows – the highs being able to see a horse that’s a product of your program come up through the ranks and do well and then the other is what everybody hates to see.

Linda:  Yes.

Ron:  Next question – Which horse you have trained was the most talented, not necessarily the one that accomplished the most?

Linda:  City Zip was probably the most talented horse I’ve had.  He had the ability to outdo a horse on the lead like Speightstown in the Amsterdam at Saratoga, or he could run them down in the stretch as he did Yonaguska in the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga.  He could get started and stopped several times in a race and re-engage and he had a great desire to win.

Ron:  So he really was talented and also turned out to be one of the best horses you’ve trained to date.

Linda:  Yes, he was very unique.

Ron:  This next question is from Olivia Newman – What advice do you have for aspiring women trainers?  What challenges do you face being a woman trainer?

Linda:  Well, I think that being any trainer, but also being a woman, I mean obviously you have to work hard at it.  You can’t be discouraged easily.  You have to pay attention to the financial end of it so that you can afford to get through the good times and the bad and that’s a big part of it.

Ron:  And that would be advice for probably any aspiring trainer, regardless of gender.

Linda:  Exactly.

Ron:  Throughout your career, have you faced gender bias, since you are succeeding in a predominantly male profession?

Linda:  Over the years, there’s been a few gender related issues that I have had to address along the way, but I find at the end of the day, people are really looking for results.  As long as they’re getting good results, that takes care of any type of gender biases.

Ron:  Next question is from Betty Ingerson. What is your least favorite part of being a trainer?

Linda:  Probably one of my least favorite things is dealing with all the paperwork – whether it’d be workmen’s compensation issues, immigration issues, and Department of Labor issues that go along with running a stable.  There’s going to be part of any business that you don’t enjoy and that’s probably the part that I enjoy the least, but it’s not going to all be fun.

Ron:  Next question from R2L – I have an 18-year-old daughter who wants to be a trainer.  She has ridden her whole life –show jumping, cross country -- and galloped Thoroughbreds since she was 14.  What advice can you provide other than “it’s a hard life, don’t do it,” etc.  She’s heard all that, but yet she’s passionate and determined to do what she loves.

Linda:  Well I think if you’ve given her all the negatives and she still has the desire to do it, you should go ahead and help her and make sure she gets directed to some people that she could learn from and support her with her decisions.

Ron:  And by that, would you suggest she go ahead and go to the racetrack, try to get on with a stable or a  lower end job and just work her way up through the ranks?

Linda:  I mean, myself, I was a rider, I broke and trained horses at a young age.  In high school, I was breaking horses and riding horses for my father and it was just a natural progression.  I’m sure they could contact some reputable stables and place her with someone like that.

The one thing that I always want to point out to them is typically it’s a seven day a week job, and vacations don’t come very often.

Ron:  And I guess that by signing on with a stable,  that will go ahead and give her the taste of whether she wants to go forward or not.

Linda:  Yes.

Ron:  Next question from Ingrid Beecher – Linda, congratulations! What an achievement!  Describe the type of horse you most like to train and who was the best horse you trained that never got to prove how good he or she was?

Linda:  Well, I don’t really have one type.  It’s not colts, not fillies, not turf, not dirt.  Frankly, despite the statistics or what most people may believe, it’s not a turf sprinter.  I buy and shop a lot of horses. I’m always shopping for talent. I think that my greatest gift as a trainer is that I am quick to identify talented young horses, whether they are weanlings, yearlings, or 2-year-olds.  I see it as my job next is to identify what they’re going to be good at, whether that’s short on the turf or long on the dirt, to identify that quickly and help them succeed in that arena. I don’t really have one type that I prefer; I just hope they’re good at something.

Ron:  So you don’t feel like you could be typecast as one particular niche?

Linda:  Frankly, I enjoy working with all of them no matter what their niche is as a horse and (that) they’re predisposed to be good at usually one thing.

Ron:  And the second part of that – the horse you trained that never got to prove how good he or she was?

Linda:  I had a 2-year-old filly I thought was brilliant – a filly that we lost to laminitis last summer. I felt that she was probably the best 2-year-old that I had since City Zip, and it was a real heartbreaker when we lost her in July before Saratoga last year.

Ron:  You recall her name?

Linda:  Yes, her name was Psycho DJ.

Ron:   Next question is from Gene Roberts - Your stable of New York-breds demonstrated their strength and racing value running in the prestigious Saratoga meet.  Do you work closely with the New York breeders?

Linda:  Well I have focused on buying New York-breds for a lot of my clients to try and help them with the dollars and cents of this business and allow them to continue to participate in something that both I and they may love because there’s an added advantage to that as far as the purse structure (is concerend).  And over the course of time, I’ve become familiar with a lot of New York breeders and I’m a member of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders as well and I am now training independently some New York breeders.  Fortunately, that has occurred through time and it’s been good for my business. 

Ron:  Next question is from Jack. Did you train your horses differently this year for the Saratoga meet from previous years, or do you think the good weather kept a lot of the racing on the turf and that helped your program too?

Linda:  Well I think that because I’m heavy in grass horses right now, that the good weather certainly helped me.  You know, I wasn’t constantly running a horse off the turf that was much better on the grass (when races were switched from turf to dirt).  So that was definitely a plus for me. But I also think that throughout the year, I’m constantly trying to put myself in a position to create more opportunity, whether that be with more horses and better horses, that I can lead over there that have a chance to win, improving my staff or the number of stalls that I have for stabling.  So it’s a year-round process and throughout the year I’m trying to continue to move my stable forward, so there’s a lot that goes into it.  So I think the weather helped but that’s just a part of the picture.

Ron:  Or probably more than anything, it’s just that everything just came together at Saratoga.

Linda:  Yes.

Ron:  Next question from Jose. How do you feel now that you won the training title at Saratoga against one of the best trainers in the US, Todd Pletcher?

Linda:  Well, I was certainly in good company, so it’s real honor to have won the training title there versus maybe at a smaller venue.  Listen, I always knew I was good, now maybe a few other people think so too.

Ron:  Next question from R. Patterson . How much longer before you bring a serious 3-year-old to Kentucky for the Derby?

Linda:  Well right now, I don’t think that I have the right kind of horses in my stable to get to the Triple Crown races. It’s my hope that winning a training title and the recognition that I’ve gained this year will put me in a position to train more Triple Crown or classic distance type horses but I don’t see that necessarily taking place for this next season.  I’m hoping that that will take place in the near future, though.

Ron:  So I guess for like most trainers, Kentucky Derby is a goal for you?

Linda:  Yes.  I mean, I’d like to win the Kentucky Derby, the Travers, obviously the Triple Crown, but I’ll start one with leg at a time. 

Ron:  Also, what about prospects for this year’s Breeder’s Cup?

Linda:  I have a few horses that I’m racing that there’s an outside chance that they will be Breeder’s Cup type horses.  I have a City Zip filly, Canadian Ballet, that will race at Keeneland this weekend.  If things go well we may venture to take her to the Breeder’s Cup Sprint on the turf.  I also have a 2-year-old filly and a 2-year-old colt that could run in the mile on the turf as well.  So, we’ll take one race at a time, though.

Ron:  We look forward to seeing how that evolves.  Next question is from Ed from Lexington.  You’ve always had success with 2-year-olds.  Do you attribute this to buying the type of horse you think will be predisposed to success at 2, or do you feel like you have a training style that enables you to get a horse to do well for you at 2, or both?

Linda:  I think it’s a combination of both.  I think that if a horse is genetically predisposed to be a good 2 year old (he will do well); if he’s not I can’t change that.  On the flipside, I think that if he was meant to be a good 2-year-old and he’s in the wrong hands, that horse’s chances could be squandered. 

Ron:  And again, you don’t typecast yourself as a horse trainer of a particular kind of horse, but certainly you have had really good success with 2 year olds.

Linda:  Well interestingly enough, my grade 1 winners that I’ve had have been the Spinaway with a 2-year-old filly and the Hopeful with a 2-year-old colt and two grade I’s --  Queen Elizabeth which was a 1-1/8 mile on the turf, and the Garden City 1-1/8 mile on the turf.  So it appears by the numbers that 2-year-olds and grass horses is where I’ve had the most luck, but  I want to keep that door open.

Ron:  Next question is from Tom – Please be kind enough to share a little about yourself from a personal standpoint. 

We may have already covered that because the second part is do you have a personal life?  I don’t think many trainers do, do they?

Linda:  Well I’m single.  I live in Floral Park near Belmont Race Track.  I don’t see enough of my family, and I probably work too much. But that’s typical of a horse trainer.

Ron:  Do you have hobbies and are you able to have some semblance of a normal life?

Linda:  Yes, of course.  Usually in the winter when we’re not quite as busy, we’re shopping horse auctions.  I’ll take the middle couple of months and do a little traveling and get caught up on a few things that don’t entail work.  So usually November, December, January is a downtime for me and I get a chance to do a few other things.

Ron:  So you do get to have some fun.

Linda:  Yeah.

Ron:  Next question from Wayne. I live in the Tampa area, I was wondering if you’re planning to take any horses there for Tampa Bay Downs in December.  I know you have some roots there.

Linda:  Yes.  My family lives in Ocala, Florida, so it’s close but I stable at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream and Tampa.  I find that it puts me in a position to race grass horses at a level they can compete.  If the race is too tough at Gulfstream, I take them over to Tampa, and it also creates more opportunity for grass horses because, of course, you’re dealing with the weather as well and difficulty of getting in the entries.  I race at both places, but I stable at Palm Meadows.

Ron:  Tampa has a reputation, both tracks, of being pretty kind on horses.

Linda:  Yes.

Ron:  George Johnson says – I read where your father knew D. Wayne Lukas when he was just getting started.  Were you around Wayne at those times and did you ever listen to your dad and Wayne talking horses?

Linda:  No, actually my father and he are lifelong friends but my relationship with him is one of respect and admiration; it’s really not a personal one but he’s been a great role model for me.

Ron:  Leonard Blush would like to know. How would you describe the current state of affairs in New York racing?

Linda:  Well I think it’s politics at its worst, and I hope that we get to the end of that soon.

Ron:  And by that would you mean just the fact that everything’s delaying the ability to have slots working at the race tracks?

Linda:  Yes, that is correct.  I am on the Horsemen’s Board in New York -- have been for three terms -- and you know we’re all sitting on the edge of our chairs waiting for them to select an operator.  We have been waiting a long time, and I hope that that comes to an end. 

Ron:  I guess everyone thought the hard part of that was going to be able to get the slots legalized but it’s certainly been a lot longer since that happened.

Linda:  Yes.

Ron:  Next question from Gabby O’Toole.  I’m a fan of one of your fillies, Mother Russia. Where is she being pointed to and is she a sweet filly?

Linda:  She’s actually a tough filly.  She was a handful as a 2-year-old.  We had to work very hard at her gate schooling, she was difficult there.  I’m pointing her towards a grade III at Keeneland, going around two turns.  That would be the last race of the year for her.  She struggles a little bit with distance but she does seem to handle it better around two turns than she does around one.

Ron:  That’s all he questions I’ve got Linda. I really appreciate your time.  Is there anything we didn’t cover that you would like to discuss?

Linda:  I think that’s it, Ron.

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