01/06/2008 1:00AM

Florida horseman Don Rice dead at 72


Florida horseman Don Rice died early Sunday morning from injuries he suffered on Thursday at his central Florida farm, according to officials at Tampa Bay Downs, where Rice won eight training titles.

Rice, 72, was found unconscious early Thursday morning at his Antigo Farm near Anthony, Fla. His daughter, Paula Williams, said Friday that it is believed Rice was hurt when a horse broke through the gate of a paddock, and the gate fell on Rice. He was airlifted with a head injury to Shands Hospital at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he died.

Rice, a native of Antigo, Wis., won his Tampa Bay training titles between the 1994-95 meet and the 2004-05 season. He set the record for wins at a Tampa meet in 2001-02 when he won 44 races.

Since beginning his training career in 1971, Rice has saddled 1,403 winners from 10,707 starters. His horses have earned $6.4 million in purses. Rice cut back his operation in recent years and only won a single race in 2007. At the time of his death he owned several horses stabled with trainer M. Anthony Ferraro at Tampa Bay Downs.

Services will be held at Hier's Funeral Home at 910 Southeast Silver Springs Boulevard (State Road 40) in Ocala, Fla., on Friday from 2-4 p.m. Hier's Funeral Home can be reached at (352) 629-7171.