02/06/2006 12:00AM

Tampa bans Rice for 30 days


Don Rice, a six-time leading trainer at Tampa Bay Downs, has been suspended and ruled off the track for 30 days after two of his horses tested positive for excessive alkalizing agents, Tampa officials said Monday.

Rice, who has saddled six winners this year from 72 starts, is also facing an additional six-month suspension because a third sample from one of his horses has also tested positive, according to Margo Flynn, a spokeswoman for Tampa. Additional confirmation tests are being conducted on the third sample, Flynn said.

The suspension is the first at Tampa since the track began testing for alkalizing agents earlier this year and enforcing so-called house rules as penalties.

Alkalizing agents, which are thought to help horses stave off fatigue, are typically administered as a solution of bicarbonate, sugar, and electrolytes that is pumped into a horse's stomach. The solution is referred to as a milkshake.

In an interview on Monday, Rice denied administering milkshakes to the horses, but said that he would not appeal the ruling. Rice also said that if the third sample was positive, he would begin looking to relocate his horses to another track, noting that the suspension is in force only at Tampa Bay Downs.

"I didn't give them anything," Rice said. "I'm not very happy about this, and I don't think it's completely legal what they did.

"But I just want to forget about this, and since I'm not ruled off anywhere else in the state, I can look around."

For now, Rice has taken the horses he owns to his farm in Ocala. His other horses have been transferred to a former assistant of his, Leselane Pompell.