Rachel Alexandra drew most of the headlines, but the super filly wasn’t the only female to make history on closing weekend at Saratoga.
On Sept. 7, Linda Rice became the first female to win a training title at a major U.S. racing circuit when she edged out Todd Pletcher, 20-19. The historic feat was even more impressive considering Rice had only 75 starters at the meet, compared to 135 for Pletcher, who is a six-time titleholder at the Spa.
“It’s a real milestone,” said Rice after having a few days to soak in the accomplishment. “I’ve been in racing for quite a few years and to win it at Saratoga is very special. Breaking the barrier for women in general was very significant too.
“I was surprised at how many people were aware of it. I must have had 57 congratulatory text messages within 30 minutes of the Hopeful. Most of them were from people I’ve known since I started in this business 25 years ago. That meant a lot.”
Rice and Pletcher were in a heated battle for the trainers’ title for more than three weeks, and entering the final two days of the meet Rice held the lead by one. Both trainers had several horses entered over those last two days, but neither won a race.
“In handicapping it, I thought we would tie or Todd would win,” Rice said. “I just didn’t have a lot left those last two days, so I was pretty surprised that I won. It would have been nice to have a winner that last day, but I’ll still take it.
“If this opens the door for more women in the business, or even for me, that is great. Maybe I’ll get a few more clients that I haven’t been able to work with in the past.”
Rice, who hails from Wisconsin but lives in New York, learned under her father, longtime trainer Clyde Rice. She won her first race in 1987 at Garden State Park in New Jersey and has been stabled in New York since 1991. The Penn State graduate has enjoyed success at Saratoga before, winning all three of the major 2-year-old stakes with City Zip in 2000 and tying for second in the trainers' standings at the 2007 meet. She currently has about 50 horses in her stable.
Other winners were Ramon Dominguez, who claimed his first Saratoga riding title with 45 victories, and Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the leading owners (12).