Gail Rice, breeder of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit

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Breeder Gail Rice kissed Medina Spirit in his stall at Churchill Downs on Sunday in Louisville. On Saturday, Medina Spirit won the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby. He is the seventh Florida-bred to win the Derby and the first since Silver Charm in 1997.

Breeder Gail Rice kissed Medina Spirit in his stall at Churchill Downs on Sunday in Louisville. On Saturday, Medina Spirit received the 147th working of the Kentucky Derby. He’s the seventh Florida-bred to win the Derby and the primary since Silver Allure in 1997.

Photograph courtesy of Gail Rice

Gail Rice had a aim.

“I all the time mentioned I needed to promote a million-dollar horse,” she mentioned. “And I did, for a $1,000.”

And with that, the 59-year-old self-described “yard breeder” from Ocala, Fla., set free probably the most superb and joyful laughs you’ve got ever heard in your complete life. With good purpose. In any case, not each particular person has bred a Kentucky Derby winner, a lot much less be the topic of one of many extra unlikely tales within the historical past of the world’s most well-known horse race.

Medina Spirit received final Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. And Medina Spirit was bred by Rice, was foaled on a 10-acre farm in Florida, was saved by Rice’s fast pondering, was then bought for first $1,000 as a yearling after which $35,000 as a 2-year-old after his mom was given away. As destiny would have it — Gail Rice is a giant believer in destiny — the colt ended up with coach Bob Baffert and, as a 12-1 shot, hit the wire first at Churchill Downs.

“I’m like, ‘Oh my God, that is me, that is actually me,” mentioned Rice, who was a witness at Churchill Downs earlier than returning house to Florida. “Little Gail Rice, yard breeder and now I’m like, ‘Kentucky Derby? That is me, proper?’”

Rice’s planning aided Medina Spirit as a foal

That is Gail Rice. Raised in Pennsylvania, she married Wayne Rice, the son of horseman Clyde Rice. Collectively, they took a van of 10 horses to Florida. After awhile, daughter Taylor and sons Kevin and Adam got here alongside. Taylor is now a former jockey married to present jockey Jose Ortiz. Kevin and Adam each prepare horses.

Within the meantime, round 2009 a good friend gave Gail Rice a mare, Scoot on By, and he or she began dabbling within the breeding enterprise. Scoot On By foaled Triple Cross, named for Rice’s church, who received races and helped Rice purchase Shiny Glad Groovy and Scribbling Sarah, who gave start to a filly by Mr. Speaker that bought for $65,000. That filly, Speech, received the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland final July and completed third within the Kentucky Oaks.

Mongolian Changa was a $9,000 yearling buy by Wayne Rice, who additionally educated her to 1 win in six begins. Upon the filly’s retirement, Wayne gave the mare to Gail, who bred her to Protonico, a first-year stallion at Taylor Made Farm, as a result of she thought it could be (a) match and (b) the worth ($6,500) was proper.

Mongolian Changa was coming off a bowed tendon harm, so Kathie Maybee of Phoenix Farm helped get her in foal. However when Mongolian Changa was carrying her first, and to date solely, foal there in Florida, Rice seen the mare was not prepared.

“She didn’t have any milk,” Rice mentioned. “She had no baggage. They’ve indicators of birthing and he or she had no indicators.”

On April 5, 2018, Rice was coming onto the farm — “Thank the nice Lord, he aligned it,” she mentioned — when she seen that the mare was down within the area “and the little ft are attempting to return out.” Rice rounded up son Kevin and his spouse Emily, who helped her ship the foal.

Figuring out that Mongolian Changa wouldn’t produce milk and the all-important colostrum wanted for newborns, Rice had frozen an additional provide from Scribbling Sarah. It was a hero’s transfer. Rice thawed the milk, stuffed the bottle and fed Medina Spirit earlier than Mongolian Changa started producing her personal milk a couple of hours later.

“He was stunning from the minute he got here out,” Rice mentioned of Medina Spirit. “He had class in him from day one. And performed. He was very pleasant. He would all the time come to see what you have been doing. I mentioned, ‘He’s going to be a bit racehorse.’ You converse it and also you need it to be so.”

Monetary circumstances pressured Rice to promote Medina Spirit

It was additionally about this time that Rice and her husband determined to divorce. Needing to cut back bills, Gail Rice bought off inventory and positioned Medina Spirit within the Ocala Breeders’ Gross sales Firm 2019 Winter Combined Sale with no reserve value. The yearling drew solely the minimal bid of $1,000 from pinhooker Christy Whitman.

“I used to be disenchanted,” Rice mentioned. “I couldn’t convey myself to place my hand as much as bid towards Christy, as a result of how was I going to feed this horse, and prepare him and get him to the races? It’s enterprise and it’s a must to deal with it as a enterprise, in any other case I’d not have had clothes or meals on the desk.”

After the sale, Rice thanked Whitman for getting her colt. Whitman replied she would supply the colt at a 2-year-old sale. She did. As a favor to good friend Oussama Aboughazale, proprietor of Protonico, Amr F. Zedan took a take a look at the colt, favored him and bought him for $35,000.

Quickly after, Rice gave Mongolian Changa to a good friend in Ohio, whereas retaining 10 %. When Medina Spirit started displaying actual promise as a runner, Taylor Made Farm bought the mare. She’s presently in foal to Not This Time.

You don’t must be a billionaire to win the Kentucky Derby

In the meantime, Rice adopted Medina Spirit’s progress, her confidence rising that her former foal couldn’t simply make the Kentucky Derby however possibly even win it.

“I believed he might win the race, however you simply don’t know,” Rice mentioned. “It’s the Kentucky Derby and something can occur. There’s 20 horses. He regarded like he might, . And that’s what they name him, the little horse that might.”

Not simply might, however did. Rice mentioned she’s proud that Medina Spirit has confirmed you don’t must be a billionaire to win the Kentucky Derby, you is usually a $1,000 yearling from a yard breeder and nonetheless beat the large boys.

“Place confidence in the nice Lord,” Rice mentioned. “Once I saved saying that this horse might win, I bought that tingle in my physique that possibly it might occur.”

After it occurred, she visited Medina Spirit at his Churchill Downs barn Sunday morning, “And he tried to chunk me. He threw water throughout me. I mentioned, ‘I’m by no means washing these pants once more.’”

After which she laughed.

The kicker: Medina Spirit is the seventh Florida-bred to win the Kentucky Derby, simply because it was Baffert’s file seventh Derby win. His first got here in 1997 with Silver Allure, the final Florida-bred to win the roses.

“I’ve no regrets,” Rice mentioned. “Different persons are earning profits with this horse and the mare and I’m very joyful. The trail that horse took to get to Bob Baffert and the Derby, I wouldn’t change it.”

Now that’s a million-dollar feeling.

John Clay is a sports activities columnist for the Lexington Herald-Chief. A local of Central Kentucky, he coated UK soccer from 1987 till being named sports activities columnist in 2000. He has coated 20 Last Fours and 37 consecutive Kentucky Derbys.
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