Trainer Adam Rice Looking To Continue Spa Success

August 11, 2023

Closethegame Sugar (inside) misses the win in the Tom Ridge June 5 at Presque Isle (Coady Photography)

NYRA Press Office

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.— Trainer Adam Rice ships with intent to Saratoga, sporting a record of 7-4-0-1 dating to a debut maiden special weight score at 9-1 odds with Don’t Be So Salty in August 2015. The Tiz Wonderful gelding followed up two weeks later with a third-place finish in the Spa’s Schenectady.

“I don’t see any reason to go places or venture off unless I feel strongly about it,” said Rice, who oversees a stable of nine horses at Presque Isle Downs. “I don’t like to be wrong. If I’m right, I’m right, but if I have a question mark about it then I should probably stay away. New York is no place to get really adventurous unless you feel good about it.”

The 32-year-old conditioner’s other Spa winners include Monster Bea [MSW, 2015], Shekky Shebaz [CLM, 2019] and Closethegame Sugar, who won a restricted maiden special weight over good turf here last summer and is entered in Sunday’s $150,000 Mahony, a 5 1/2-furlong Mellon turf sprint for sophomores.

The runner-up in Closethegame Sugar’s maiden score, Webslinger, is now a graded-stakes winner with more than $1 million in purse earnings.

“We were prepared that day. I don’t like to come unprepared. My horse is an honest animal and it was one of those things where he gave me everything he had and we managed to get there that day,” Rice said. “That horse [Webslinger] has really excelled as a 3-year-old, and I’ve been sitting around trying to find a place where I’d like mine to be at.”

Co-owned by Rice with Sugar Diaz, the Girvin gelding, a $10,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, enters from a prominent runner-up effort to the dual stakes-winner Dreaming of Kona in the six-furlong Tom Ridge on June 5 over the Presque Isle Downs synthetic.

He will now face an experienced field of turf sprinters, as well as a pair of accomplished surface switchers in dual graded stakes-placed Drew’s Gold and Uncashed, who enters from a win in the off-the-turf Quick Call presented by Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation on July 16 here.

Rice said his lightly-raced charge needed time to mature and may have been at a disadvantage to his more experienced foe in the Tom Ridge.

“It was just baby stuff. He needed to grow up a little bit. It seemed to help. He’s not changed drastically – he’s still the same little horse he was – but he got stronger and grew up,” Rice said. “I was worried he would be a little bit short going into the Tom Ridge, but he made a nice effort. I had entered him back in a ‘3-and-up’ stake here that also ended up being pretty tough, so I scratched out of that and was waiting to find my spot. I was looking at the Quick Call and passed on that. I like to choose my spots. I don’t want to beat the horse up.”

Rice indicated he would likely scratch Closethegame Sugar should the race come off the turf.

“That race has come up pretty tough. It looks like everybody entered according to the weather. If it stays on the turf, we’ll look pretty good. If it comes off, I think we would scratch out of it,” Rice said.

The Kentucky-bred Closethegame Sugar drew post 3 with Jose Lezcano aboard and a 15-1 morning-line assessment.

Rice will also send out Dancing Spirit in Race 2 on Sunday, a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight over the inner turf for juvenile fillies.

The Pennsylvania-bred Social Inclusion bay is owned outright by Rice and enters from a runner-up effort in a five-furlong maiden special weight on July 17 at Presque Isle, earning place honors by a head over next-out maiden winner Rotondo.

“We might be reaching a bit there. She’s a Pennsylvania-bred filly that I ran in open company and the horse that ran third behind her came back and won here last week going five [furlongs],” Rice said.

But Rice is cautiously optimistic of his chances with a filly he said is training forwardly for a stretch out in distance, which often leads to a prominent trip.

“I don’t think she needs to be on the lead. She’s handy. I like her. I think the distance will suit her well,” Rice said. “The more I ask of her here, the better she’s gotten for me. I don’t necessarily need the front end. If we can get there, it’s nice to be in charge, but the filly will tell me what it’s like.”

Dancing Spirit, listed at 8-1 on the morning line, will exit the outermost post 10 in rein to Rice’s brother-in-law Jose Ortiz – husband of Taylor Ortiz, née Rice.

Rice, the nephew of the Spa’s current co-leading trainer Linda Rice, also boasts a 3-1-1-0 record at Belmont Park led by a maiden win last July from Oxymore, who was sold privately and subsequently won Saratoga’s Skidmore.

@JakeBLues23231 @jonathanstettin @PastTheWire and selections were made at 8/1 12/1/10/1 M/L. Must be we are all so far ahead we pound!

Bill Mentes @drbillym View testimonials