She used to condition hair for her clients. Now she is one of the top thoroughbred conditioners at Tampa Bay Downs.
For Lynne Scace, it was a matter of knowing where she wanted to be.
"I just couldn't stand being inside," Scace said. "Being a hairdresser wasn't that bad; I just wanted to work outside."
When the Downs opens today for its 81st season of live racing, Scace will be in her chosen environment: outside, where she will be with the horses in the paddock, hoping to join her trainees in the winner's circle.
Over the past four seasons at the Downs, no trainer has won more than Scace. Sparked by her only trainer title at the 2003-04 meet, Scace has 108 victories in 594 starts. She's won at least 25 races each year, and her runners have finished in the money 44.1 percent of the time.
"The kind (of horses) I have always seem to do well at Tampa," Scace said. "It's an exceptional track and very easy on the horses."
Despite finishing second to Kirk Ziadie 34-27 in last year's Downs trainer standings, Scace reached a milestone when her Platinum Perfect captured the Minaret Stakes with Jose Lezcano aboard on Jan. 7. It was Scace's first stakes triumph in 10 years at the facility. Platinum Perfect is now a broodmare in Kentucky.
Scace, 56, a native of Pittsfield, Mass., also is an owner and breeder. She and partner Ray Stifano own the 60-acre Double S Farm in Ocala.
"There's never a dull day," Scace said. "I get up at 4 in the morning, get to the barn by 5, work with the horses until 11 or 12, then go back to feed them for a final time at around 4 o'clock. Seven days a week. I couldn't do it without great help."
Scace was a hairdresser for more than three years before switching careers. The decision wasn't difficult. As a child, she participated in gymkhanas (competitive games on horseback) and later walked hots (cool downs). Scace acquired her trainer license in 1971, and has entered horses at numerous tracks, many in the Northeast.
She won her second stakes of the year when her Put Back the Shu captured the Bergen County Stakes Oct. 7 at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J. The 3-year-old colt also finished second in the Select Stakes on May 20 at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J., and is one of Scace's top horses in her 30-stable barn at the Downs.
Lookin Back At You, a 2-year-old filly who placed second in the Holly Stakes Oct. 27 at the Meadowlands, is another strong Scace trainee along with Roman Candles, a 4-year-old colt who is back after a back injury at Monmouth Park.
Arthur Appleton of Ocala and New Yorker Barry Ostrager are among Scace's top horse owners.
"It's nice to have some talented horses, but they have to be conditioned properly," Scace said. "Once you do that, they tell you when they're ready to run.
"I never go into a meet looking to win a title. You just don't know what's going to happen until you get started."
For Scace, that begins today.
Tampa Bay Downs
What: 81st season of thoroughbred racing
When: 94-day meet runs today through May 6
Where: 11225 Race Track Road, Oldsmar
Track: Dirt, 1 mile; turf, seven-eighths mile
Season highlights: Feb. 17, Festival Preview Day ($150,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes, $125,000 Endeavour Breeders' Cup and $75,000 Suncoast Stakes); Feb. 24, $150,000 Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup; March 17, Festival Day (Grade III $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby, $200,000 Florida Oaks and Grade III $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes); April 7, Florida Cup Day ($85,000 Ocala Breeders' Sale Sophomore, $85,000 Dayton Andrews Dodge Sophomore Turf, $85,000 Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies, $85,000 Hilton Garden Inn Sprint, $85,000 Cherokee River Stable Turf Classic and $85,000 Florida Cup Turf Distaff); May 5, Kentucky Derby Day ($75,000 Chris Thomas Turf Classic and $65,000 Lightning City Stakes)
2005-06 leaders: Rider, Jose Lezcano (92 wins); trainer, Kirk Ziadie (34 wins); owner, Richard Averill (17 wins)
Other activities: Simulcast wagering on thoroughbreds, standardbreds, greyhounds and jai alai; poker in Silks Card Room, golf at Downs Golf Facility
Web site: tampabaydowns.com