02/02/2018 4:36PM

Gaming Commission investigating Linda Rice


The New York State Gaming Commission is investigating whether trainer Linda Rice paid individuals in the racing office at the New York Racing Association for improperly receiving information that gave her a competitive advantage in determining in what races to enter her horses.

While a spokesperson said the commission “will not confirm or deny that an investigation is underway,” Rice told Daily Racing Form on Friday that she recently spoke with state investigators about this issue. Rice, perhaps the most successful female trainer in North America Thoroughbred racing, told DRF that while she did give money to members of the racing office – and gate crew – they were not bribes in exchange for information.

“I gave Christmas gifts to the gate crew and racing office not for exchange of information,” Rice said.

Rice said she was given information via fax and/or email – believed to be the names and past performances of horses already entered in races – before the races had officially been closed. By receiving that information, presumably Rice could determine whether a horse she had eligible for the same race would be competitive.

Rice said the time period in which this was done was 2012-14, a time she said when NYRA was racing five days a week during the winter and “were hustling races,” she said. “This was the tactic they chose to try and entice people to enter.”

Sources told Daily Racing Form that the time period in which Rice gave money to the racing office goes back to at least 2010. Two individuals who worked in the racing office at that time were Jose Morales Jr. and Matt Salvato. Both of those individuals have been ruled off the grounds of NYRA tracks and are no longer licensed by the commission.

Morales said he worked in the racing office at NYRA from 2006 through Aug. 31, 2014. On Friday, Morales, who has a case pending with the commission, acknowledged he provided Rice “with past performances and entry sheets” but would not comment about receiving money.

“It’s over with, it’s behind me, it’s time for me to move on,” Morales said.

Last year, the commission held a show-cause hearing regarding Morales’s license. Among the violations he was charged with in the ruling was that he “unlawfully accepted bribes for providing confidential information from the InCompass system via email on or about April 2014 through June 2014, to one or more unauthorized persons, including providing entry sheets of horses’, past performances for horses entered in particular races before entries closed, prior to the drawing of each race.”

Salvato, who began working in the racing office at NYRA in 2009, was promoted to racing secretary last November. On Jan. 25, he was ruled off the grounds at NYRA and escorted out of Aqueduct by security. Salvato’s state license expired on Wednesday. NYRA has not commented on whether Salvato is officially fired.

Salvato declined comment on Friday when reached by Daily Racing Form.

NYRA spokesperson Pat McKenna said, “NYRA is unable to comment on behavior that is alleged to have taken place prior to the arrival of the new management team. However, NYRA discovered certain activity in 2014 and immediately referred our findings to relevant law enforcement agencies and the New York State Gaming Commission. We will continue to work closely with the NYSGC, and would not want to jeopardize any aspect of what we believe is an ongoing investigation by providing further comment.

“We look forward to the conclusion of this investigation so that the facts are known and the truth becomes public,” McKenna added.

It is unclear what penalties Rice faces from the state. She could be cited for violating rule 4042.1, which in part reads, “If any person gives, offers or promises, directly or indirectly, any bribe in any form to any person having official duties in relation to any race or race horse or to any trainer, jockey or agent or to any other person having charge of or access to any race horse.”

In an unrelated matter, Rice met with the New York stewards on Friday and faces possible disciplinary action for scratching two of her horses from the first race at Aqueduct on Jan. 27 which created a four-horse field. Rice said that one of her horses had been treated with a medication that would have likely resulted in a medication positive had it run, while the owner of the other horse did not want to run her horse for a claiming price.

Rice, 53, has trained horses for 30 years and has become one of the most successful trainers on the NYRA circuit. She has finished in the top six in wins at NYRA every year since 2010. Her 113 wins at NYRA in 2017 were a personal best. In 2009, Rice became the first female trainer to win a title at Saratoga. In 2011, she tied for leading trainer at the Aqueduct spring and Belmont spring/summer meets. She also was the leading trainer at the 2012 Aqueduct spring meet.

For her career, Rice has won 1,701 races and her horses have earned $65.7 million in purse earnings. She trained the 2015 champion female sprinter La Verdad.