Linda Rice has a reputation as a trainer of 2-year-olds. She's proud of that. But she is also working hard to expand her reputation. Some attention will come her way on Saturday, when she becomes only the eighth woman to saddle a horse in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
All eyes will be on Funny Cide as he attempts to become racing's 12th Triple Crown winner. That is fine with Rice, who has 30 horses at Belmont, another 30 at Monmouth, and knows her Belmont starter, Supervisor, will have the highest odds of the six-horse Belmont field.
Rice's father, Clyde, has been breaking and training horses at his Indian Prairie Ranch near Ocala, Fla., for the past 10 years for Supervisor's owner, Dr. Rodney Lundock. The Skip Trial colt made his first 14 starts in Florida for trainer Manny Tortora, and then was shipped to Rice in New York.
"Basically, they had an idea for the colt and asked me if I would execute it," Rice said. "After the Belmont, we will map out a schedule for him."
Supervisor has won just two of 15 starts, his last outing a third-place finish in the grade II Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont on May 24.
Rice grew up helping her father and mother (Jean), working as exercise rider and assistant for her dad for many years. She went out on her own in New Jersey in 1987 when only 23, and moved to New York in 1991.
She became the first woman trainer to win a grade I race at historic Keeneland in 1998 when Tenski won the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup.
"Growing up in Ocala, I learned how to develop 2-year-olds," Rice said. "A lot of clients you have, they like to see early returns, to keep them interested in staying in the game.
"I'm proud of developing 2-year-olds, but I'm working hard to show I can keep them running well as they become older horses."