01/06/2015 12:42PM

2014 Eclipse Awards: Taylor Rice

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Tom Keyser

Taylor Rice might be from a family long steeped in racing, but the 26-year-old waited a while to join the fray and in 2014 carved out her own place in the sport. Rice was one of North America’s leading “rookie riders” last year and for her accomplishments is an Eclipse Award finalist for outstanding apprentice jockey of 2014.

Rice is the daughter of Wayne Rice, a former jockey, and the niece of Linda Rice, a leading trainer in New York. Her first winning mount came on a horse owned by her grandfather, Clyde Rice, and trained by her brother, Kevin. There is even more family involved in the sport, so it was a natural fit for Rice to pursue racing after earning a degree in international relations from Florida State University.

Rice’s first win came at Presque Isle Downs on Aug. 4, 2013, and her apprentice allowance extended through Aug. 31, 2014. During her time with the “bug” in 2014, she won 89 races from 597 starts for mount earnings of $4,045,025. The earnings ranked second among all apprentices in North America.

“This is way more than I expected,” Rice said in a July interview with Daily Racing Form.

Rice, who started 2014 with a four-bagger at Aqueduct on Jan. 27, was the track’s leading apprentice before going on to finish eighth in the overall spring-summer standings at Belmont Park. She also racked up three stakes wins as an apprentice, her first coming at Aqueduct with Be Bullish in the $100,000 Hollie Hughes on Feb. 17. Rice’s other stakes wins came with Wonder Gal and Mah Jong Maddnes.