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Billy Reed: A happy mom indeed, Gail Rice bred Medina Spirit, the winner of the 147th Kentucky Derby

I wish a very happy Mother’s Day to all the great moms out there, but with no disrespect intended to anybody, I’ve decided to concentrate on one who recently crossed my path.

Her name is Gail Rice, and if you look up Medina Spirit on your Kentucky Derby 147 program, you will see she is listed as the colt’s breeder. You are excused if you have never heard of her, because you definitely are in the majority.

I met her last Sunday morning, the same time trainer Bob Baffert did. She was waiting outside his barn at Churchill Downs to introduce herself, and Baffert was delighted.

Billy Reed is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame and the Transylvania University Hall of Fame. He has been named Kentucky Sports Writer of the Year eight times and has won the Eclipse Award three times. Reed has written about a multitude of sports events for over four decades and is perhaps one of the most knowledgeable writers on the Kentucky Derby. His book “Last of a BReed” is available on Amazon. Billy covered his 53rd Kentucky Derby for the NKyTribune.

At age 60, she is a bubbly, charming woman whose smile and laugh are infectious. She was living the dream of all the so-called “little people” in racing who hope that someday they will catch lightning in a bottle.

Recently divorced from her longtime husband Wayne, a small-time horseman on the Florida circuit, she now lives on an 18-acre farm owned by her son-in-law, the famed jockey Jose Ortiz Jr.

Ortiz is married to her daughter Taylor Rice, also a jockey who’s fast making a name for herself in Florida and beyond. Her two sons, Adam and Kevin, both are trainers. Her former husband also has a sister, Linda Rice, who has enjoyed some national success.

When these folks get together, you can bet the main topic of conversation has nothing to do with politics or government, unless, of course, there is a bill pending about the horse-racing industry.

As part of the divorce, Wayne deeded to Gail the ownership of two undistinguished mares, Scribbling Sarah and Mongolian Changa. He had purchased Mongolian Changa for $9,000.

For Mongolian Changa’s first breeding, Rice picked the stallion Protonico, a decent stakes horse who entered stud duty at Taylor Made Stallions for a modest $6,500.

During Mongolian Changa’s pregnancy, Rice noticed that she wasn’t producing any milk. When her colt was born, Rice thawed some of Scribbling Sarah’s milk that she had saved. She fed it to the colt until Mongolian Changa began producing her own milk a few hours later.

Rice liked Mongolia Changa’s colt.

“He was beautiful from the moment he came out,” she said. “He had class in him from Day One. And played. He was very friendly, would always come to see what you were doing.”

Unfortunately, she couldn’t afford to keep the colt because of her newly reduced circumstances. Although she didn’t want to sell Mongolian Changa’s colt, she was needy enough to put him in the 2019 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s Winter Mixed Sale, where pinhooker Christy Whitman bought him for $1,000. (A pinhooker is a broker who buys horses at a cheap price, then resells them for a higher price later.)

Gail Rice (Photo provided by Gail Rice)

“I was disappointed,” Rice said. “I couldn’t bring myself to put up my hand to bid against Christy, because how was I going to feed this horse and train him and get him to the races? It’s business and you have to treat it as business. Otherwise, I would not have clothing or food on the table.”

Whitman put him in a 2-year-old sale the next year, and he was purchased for $35,000 by Amr F. Zedan as a favor to friend Oussama Aboughazale, the owner of Protonico.

Zedan named the colt Medina Spirit and turned him over to his trainer, Bob Baffert.

Soon after Zedan bought the colt, Rice gave Mongolian Changa to a friend in Ohio, retaining 10 per cent ownership. When Medina Spirit began showing some ability on the track, they sold her to Taylor Made Farm, where she’s currently in foal to Not This Time.

When she met Baffert the morning after the Derby, the trainer brought out the colt so she could have a good look at him.

“And he tried to bite me,” Rice said. “He threw water all over me. I’m never washing these pants again.”

Next up for the Derby winner is the Preakness, second jewel in thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown (the Belmont Stakes is the third). Rice will be there without rancor or remorse.

“I have no regrets,” she said after the Derby. “Other people are making money with this horse and the mare, and I’m very happy. The path the horse took to get to Bob Baffert and the Derby, I wouldn’t change it.”

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