Linda Rice Joins The TDN Writers' Room Podcast

Linda Rice | Sarah Andrew

It's been a remarkable year for trainer Linda Rice, who either won outright or tied for the lead at five straight meets at the NYRA tracks, and it might get even better. She entered the week with 157 wins at the three NYRA courses this year and needs just eight more to break the single-season record held by David Jacobson. Her stable has already amassed $10 million in earnings, a record for her barn, and $4.3 million more than her stable made last year.

How has she done it? Those were among the question she was asked when she joined the TDN Writers' Room podcast sponsored by Keeneland. Rice was this week's Green Group Guest of the Week.

“I would say some of the things that really moved me forward in my business was the decision to stay in New York year-round,” she said. “I used to split my stable in the winter and send a division to Miami while keeping the main division here in New York. I found out over the years that it was expensive. I spent all winter trying to recover my expenses, and I didn't feel like it moved us forward in any way. So when the VLT money kicked in in New York and was added to the purses, which was about 2013, I abandoned ship on Miami. I said, 'look, we're going to try something different. We're going to stay in New York.' I'm going to consolidate my workforce. Frankly, we had a lot of work right here in New York in the winter. It's a tough job in the winter. And I needed all my best people right in front of me. So I think that is the one thing that I see on my career that was very helpful was to consolidate and consolidate in New York when the VLT money showed up.”

She also largely abandoned buying at the sales.

“I used to buy a lot of young horses, yearlings, 2-year-olds in training and I'd shop all of the auctions, which I loved to do,” Rice said. “But I became it became very frustrating to me. We would go to the auctions. We'd spend a lot of money and there were all the expenses between hotels and everything else involved. And we had to invest a lot of time. I felt frustrated when we came home and we weren't getting the horses bought that we wanted. We were buying horses that really weren't on the list of horses to take home. So you go home with nothing. So I changed it up and I said, 'Well, let's try something different.' And that's when I started claiming more horses.”

She is so New York-centric that she has won only two races outside of the NYRA tracks all year, which has put her in position to break Jacobson's record. Is that something that is important to her?

Linda Rice | Coglianese

“I really hadn't thought about it much, but a few of my friends have been prompting me lately that I need to become a little more aggressive with my entries for the next couple of weeks,” Rice said. “I think we only have about eight days of racing left. The wins have been coming kind of slow and hard the last couple of weeks. So I don't know. And I told them, 'look, no matter what, it's been a great year.' And they pooh poohed that idea. They said, 'Oh, no, oh, no, you need to dig down, dig deep, get this done.'”

Rice also scored a major victory in the courtroom during the year. The New York Gaming Commission was looking to suspend her for three years for allegedly receiving favorable treatment from the racing office that could have given her an advantage over her rivals. The courts intervened and called the three-year suspension “shockingly unfair,” which forced the Gaming Commission to drop the ban.

“It was a very trying long process to finally get there,” she said. “My family has told me, that the fact that I've been able to maintain the level that I have professionally under that type of pressure is quite amazing. But it has been a huge relief to have it finally behind me. It was very stressful, very hard on myself, my family, to watch me go through that. But we were very pleased with the appellate decision and glad to have it over.”

Also on the show the hosts discussed the Coolmore Stallion of the Week, Corniche (Quality Road), an undefeated champion two-year-old now standing at stud at Coolmore America.

Elsewhere on the podcast, which is also sponsored by the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, West Point Thoroughbreds, WinStar Farm and, the team of Randy Moss and Bill Finley debated NYRA's decision to move the GI Belmont S. to Saratoga for 2024 and, most likely 2025. Finley was all in favor of the move and while Moss conceded that Saratoga was probably the right place to hold the race the distance should not have been shifted from 1 1/2 to a 1 1/4. Moss and Finley also discussed Pat Valenzuela's plans to begin riding again after a seven-year absence brought about by knee problems. Both agreed that he has an uphill climb in front of him.

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