12/15/2012 12:12PM

Penn National: Rice returns to where it all began


New York-based trainer Linda Rice is returning to her racing roots by bringing a string of her horses to Penn National Race Course this winter.

This is the first time Rice will have horses on the grounds at Penn National, but she’s hardly a stranger to the central Pennsylvania track. Shortly after the track opened in Grantville, Pa., on Aug. 30, 1972, a 9-year-old Rice moved to the area with her family. Her father, Clyde, was Penn National’s leading trainer multiple times between 1973 and 1982 and now operates a training center in Ocala, Fla. Her brother Kent was the leading apprentice jockey in the country in 1979, winning 311 races, and her other brothers Wayne and Bryan were integral to the family’s success in the sales ring and in readying young horses for the races.

“Penn National was a great place to grow up,” said Linda Rice, 48, who took over her father’s stable in 1987 and has been based in New York since 1991. “My passion for racing started at Penn National, and I learned to gallop horses as an exercise rider there when I was 15. I’m excited about driving down the mountain road and coming back to a place where I spent a lot of time.”

Rice maintains a large string in New York and was looking for a place to bring some additional horses.

“Penn National has some conditions available that meet the needs I am looking for,” said Rice. “In addition, it is very accessible from New York, and is familiar territory for me.”

Rice has a starter in Tuesday night’s third race, a six-furong sprint for $10,000 claimers who have never won three races. Her 4-year-old colt Quick to Strike ships in from Finger Lakes, where he won his two most recent starts by a combined margin of 16 lengths. His last Beyer Speed Figure of 71 is close to the par of 74 for Tuesday’s class level and is the highest last-race number in a field of eight.

◗ The featured fifth race, a first-level allowance at a mile with a purse of $36,000, looks like a toss-up between the 5-year-old Boom de Ya Da, who missed by a head at this same level first time off the claim by trainer David Wells, and Roman Games, a Parx-based 5-year-old who outran his 15-1 odds to finish second by a neck at this level two starts ago.