12/10/2002 1:00AM

Rice returns to racetrack


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Linda Rice was back at work Tuesday morning, just one week after suffering three broken ribs and a broken elbow when a horse kicked her in the back at her barn.

Rice, with her left arm in a sling, seemed upbeat about her progress, saying she was fortunate her injuries weren't worse. Rice said she would come out for only a couple of hours each day for the next few weeks.

"The ribs are healing miraculously fast," Rice said while preparing to time horses at the Belmont Park training track. "Maybe because I'm a runner I'm healing really fast."

Rice had to remain in the hospital until Saturday because of a puncture wound in her left arm, just above her broken elbow. According to Rice, doctors feared infection and they gave her strong antibiotics intravenously.

Rice said she will need to keep her arm in a sling for several weeks, but noted "it's a good thing it's my left arm. I can still clock horses with my right hand."

Rice will keep a string of 35 horses in New York for the winter. She will also maintain a 15-horse stable at Gulfstream run by her assistant Samantha Randazzo.