06/20/2001 11:00PM

Rice playing a Numbers game at Pimlico


Trainer Linda Rice looks like she might have a good one in Mr. Numbers, a grass runner who is 2 for 3 since making his career debut in April.

Fifteen days after winning a first-level grass allowance at Monmouth Park by 2 3/4 lengths, Mr. Numbers steps into stakes company for the first time in Saturday's $60,000 Humphrey S. Finney at Pimlico.

Rice also entered Flying Numbers, who is coupled with Mr. Numbers in the 1 1/8-mile Finney for Maryland-bred 3-year-olds on the turf.

Flying Numbers is coming off a 3 3/4-length maiden win, where he stole the race on the front end through soft fractions, in his grass debut on June 7 at Monmouth Park.

Rice, who has strong numbers with grass runners, named Mario Pino on both her horses, suggesting she will start only one of them.

Mr. Numbers, who drew the outside in the nine-horse Finney field, won a maiden race in his second start at Hialeah in the spring. Stretching out to 1 1/16 miles after debuting at 5 1/2 furlongs, Mr. Numbers survived a stretch duel to win by three-quarters of a length.

Ronnie's Hot Rod, who finished second to Saratoga Games in the Honor Guard, has run only once on turf, but a duplicate effort here would be enough to get him the win. Trained by Rodney Jenkins, he was second in the Woodlawn, beaten a half-length in his grass debut on May 5. The effort earned him a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 88.

Ramon Dominguez, the meet's leading rider, has the mount on Ronnie's Hot Rod, who has early speed.

Saratoga Games might be better on the dirt, despite winning his debut on turf by a neck two starts back for trainer Tony Dutrow, who is winning at a 34 percent clip in 2001.

Saratoga Games returned and ran a huge race in the off-the-turf Honor Guard, which he won by 8 3/4 lengths last month at Pimlico over four rivals. Valid Ticket is coupled in the wagering with Saratoga Games and is the weaker half of the entry.