Rice becomes Spa's top trainer

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Linda Rice held off Todd Pletcher by one winner, 20-19, at Saratoga to become the first female in the modern era to win a trainer's title at a major U.S. racing circuit.

"It means the world to me," said Rice, the 44-year-old daughter of trainer Clyde Rice. "It's been a lot of work, a long time coming, and it's a real honor to compete at the greatest racetrack in the world and to come out with the training title."

Rice started 75 horses, 60 less than Pletcher. Pletcher, a six-time leading trainer at Saratoga, finished with 19 wins but 28 seconds from 135 starters.

"When you run second 28 times, it's only fitting that you finish second in the meet," Pletcher said. "It's a little bit frustrating. Linda had a great meet. It's quite an accomplishment. She should be proud."

Neither Rice nor Pletcher won a race over the last two days of the meet, but the two were quite active on Sunday and Monday. The two were never more than two wins apart since Aug. 12.

"Earlier in the meet things were going well," said Rice, who two years ago finished in a tie for second leading trainer here. "As we got later in the meet, I was one up, Todd was two up, I was one up, back and forth. Of course I'm looking at the horses standing in my barn and not sure if I can follow through. I was concerned the last couple of days because I didn't have the right horses in. I placed horses pretty aggressively last week and it worked."

Rounding out the top five trainers were Bill Mott (18), Steve Asmussen (13), and George Weaver and Barclay Tagg, both with 12.

Ramon Dominguez followed his record-setting Belmont Park meet by winning his first Saratoga riding title, 45-40, over defending riding champion Alan Garcia. Dominguez won 10 stakes, highlighted by the Grade 2 Alfred. G. Vanderbilt Handicap with Fabulous Strike.

"It's very satisfying just knowing how deep the rider colony here is, how many good riders I'm competing against," said Dominguez, who won 98 races at Belmont. "I always said it doesn't mean really anything, it just gives you bragging rights."

Rounding out the top five riders were Rajiv Maragh (33), Julien Leparoux (28), and John Velazquez, Javier Castellano, and Kent Desormeaux, each with 26.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey were the leading owners with 12 wins. Michael Dubb and Godolphin Stable each had eight winners.