05/28/2002 11:00PM

New rider where she said she'd be


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Last summer, when Graham Motion came to Monmouth to saddle Broken Vow in the Grade 2 Iselin, Bacarra Lynn Rice came with him. At the time, she was Motion's main exercise rider at Delaware Park, honing her riding skills under the tutelage of Motion and such jockeys as Ramon Dominguez and Robert Colton.

It was Rice's first time at Monmouth, and she envisioned herself riding here. On the day of the race, Rice told Motion that she would some day ride here.

That day has taken only one year to arrive, as Rice, 21, is a member of the riding colony this summer as a five-pound apprentice. To get to this point hasn't been easy, especially in an industry that isn't wholly receptive to female jockeys, but Rice's career so far illustrates how dedication, persistence, and a lot of energy make a great recipe for success.

"I never doubted her," Motion said, recalling their conversation last year. "She had a real desire to do it and she's achieved all the things she has set her mind to."

When Rice, who grew up in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., sets her mind to do something, she usually gets it done. Like at age 8, when she asked her parents for what most young girls ask for - a horse. She also told her parents she wanted to be a jockey. It was no far-fetched wish, though; Rice was hooked on riding from the moment she first mounted the horse her parents leased for her. Rice started rodeo riding at the age of 12, and eventually started galloping horses five years later at Breakaway Farm in Ocala, Fla. She left Florida soon after and headed for Charles Town, W.Va., where she freelanced as an exercise rider at the racetrack there.

It was when she started galloping for Motion at Laurel Park that she truly was on her way to becoming a professional jockey.

"I don't know where I would be right now without him," said Rice, who will turn 22 in July. "I was very weak when I started with Graham, but he helped me so much to become a better rider."

Rice received help from Dominguez and Colton when they would work out some of Motion's horses. Motion said that he depended on Rice quite heavily for breezing horses, especially 2-year-olds, and he saw her tremendous progress in building up the strength that would be necessary for race-riding.

"It's harder for girls to get going as jockeys, and she had some naysayers along the way," Motion said, "but the key was that she really wanted to ride. She had the right mentality."

Rice took out her apprentice license at Delaware in the fall, after 3 1/2 years of galloping, and rode five races there for Motion in October. She moved to Penn National next and had immediate success there. She rode first-call for trainer Bruce Kravets, who had a stable of about 50 horses, and eventually won 70 races total at the track. She won her fifth career race on Nov. 24, beginning her five-pound apprentice allowance that lasts one year. In the Penn National meet that started Jan. 2, she won 50 races from 304 mounts before coming to Monmouth.

When Rice came to Monmouth, J. Willard Thompson, the track's leading trainer last year, signed on the apprentice as his first-call rider. Of Thompson's 29 wins last year, 25 came with apprentices aboard. Rice said she was a little intimidated after arriving at Monmouth because of the high quality of the racing, but her fears were quickly calmed when she won on her first mount of the meet - the Thompson-trained Personal Journey - in the second race on opening day. Since then, she has run second five times and third three times but has not returned to the winner's circle in 31 starts.

"I enjoy having young people like Bacarra around," Thompson said. "She's done a very good job so far on my horses. She has very good hands on a horse, and I particularly like her attitude. She's always up, very bubbly. Her riding style has many similarities with Julie Krone's."

One trainer who is keeping an intent eye on Rice is John Forbes. Forbes used Krone aboard his horses when many other trainers at Monmouth refused to do so. Rachel Lavoy has ridden first-call for Forbes since her 2000 apprentice season. Forbes said that the most important thing for any jockey, especially a female jockey, is inner toughness. Since female jockeys must undergo more adversity than men, Forbes said, it takes a special person to fight through the obstacles en route to success.

It's too early to say whether or not Rice could achieve success on the level of Krone. But from the day she turned to Motion and said she would be riding at Monmouth soon, Rice has surely taken the right steps in that direction.

Plaza Suite in allowance spot

The Friday feature, run as the eighth race, is a $33,000 entry-level allowance for fillies and mares at one mile on the turf.

Plaza Suite, breaking from the outside post in the field of nine, won her maiden race on the turf at The Meadowlands on May 15. Plaza Suite, a 3-year-old trained by Linda Rice, had been entered to run in the $50,000 Revidere Stakes last Saturday, but was scratched for the easier spot.