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If Rice is Right, Turf may bring out Trio's Best

ELMONT, N.Y. – Early in her career, trainer Linda Rice was known for her ability to develop young horses. She certainly proved that in 2000, when she sent out City Zip to sweep all three of the important two-year-old races at Saratoga Race Course, the Sanford, Saratoga Special and the Grade 1 Hopeful, in which he dead-heated with Yonaguska.

As she has grown in the sport, Rice has also grown in her ability to manage her stable and take advantage of races that are available. Remember last summer in Saratoga? In the Mechanicville Stakes on August 18, she trained the top four finishers: Ahvee’s Destiny, Canadian Ballet, Silver Timber and Karakorum Elektra. Said Rice afterward: “I put them all in the race because they were training well and all of them had a chance to win the race.”

For Sunday, Rice has entered three horses between the two divisions of the restricted New York Stallion Stakes, both at seven furlongs on the Widener Turf Course. In the Cupecoy’s Joy Division, for three-year-old fillies, she will go with Obviously New York Stable’s Mother Russia, who has drawn the outside in the 11-horse field, and SAB Stable’s We’re Hooked, who will break from post 6.

In the Spectacular Bid Division for colts and geldings, Rice will saddle Eklektikos Stable’s Seeking Eldorado, who drew post 6 among a dozen. Four Star General is entered for the main track only.

Grass sprints, especially in the New York-bred program, have opened a door to plenty of opportunity for trainers, and Rice has been especially proficient at taking full advantage. This will be Mother Russia’s turf debut, and if Rice is right about the Mayakovsky filly, she will have another strong player for the months ahead.

“She’s drawn outside, but she has tactical speed and it shouldn’t really bother her,” Rice said of Mother Russia, who has won three of five starts, with a second and a third. “I always felt that she would be good on grass. She has a sibling – Iron Curtain –who moved up tremendously on the turf.

“The reason I haven’t tried her on turf before is that there were so many other opportunities for her on dirt. I had an inkling she might like the turf, so I galloped her on the grass before, and then I breezed her on it the other day (four furlongs, :51, around the “dogs” on May 24), and she handled it very well.”

Ramon Dominguez, who rode her to victory in the slop in the Park Avenue Division of the New York Stallion Series on March 29, is back aboard. Mother Russian will carry top weight of 120 pounds, conceding 10 pounds to each of her rivals.

We’re Hooked, a daughter of Hook and Ladder, is also trying the turf for the first time.

“Of course, she doesn’t have the past performances of Mother Russia,” Rice said. “I put blinkers on her last time to help her concentrate, but I’m taking them off for this race. She had a lot of problems last time, so we’ll see.”

Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado has the mount.

In the Cupecoy’s Joy Division, Rice will saddle Seeking Eldorado, who beat only one horse in the slop in an allowance race here on May 3. That day, he found himself part of a speed duel that saw the first quarter of a mile go in :22 and the half in :45 4/4.

“He got caught in an ugly speed duel, and that’s something he really doesn’t like,” Rice said. “His race last August was also a throw-out because he had so much trouble. But he has had two other good races. He’s out of an Ends Well mare (Final Crossing) and I think he might really like the turf.”

 

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