01/06/2011 2:41PM

Q&A: Forest Boyce

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

As an apprentice for almost all of 2010, she led all Maryland-based riders in victories while winning titles at both the summer and fall meets at Laurel. She is an Eclipse Award finalist for top apprentice jockey.

Birthdate: Oct. 8, 1984, in Baltimore, Md.

Family: Single

Got into racing because . . . “I grew up showing and fox hunting and belonged to a pony club as a kid, as well. When I was 11, I started working for trainer Mikey Smithwick at his farm. Once I started working for him, I really got into it. It was such a fun experience. He had donkeys, racehorses, and a mule. It was a fun atmosphere for a kid. He was so great with children. He taught me everything. I started breaking babies and got on a few older horses that were easy to ride. I learned a lot from him. We’d go out in the field and jump bareback on some of the steeplechase horses. That’s fun when you’re a kid.”

First job at the track? “I worked for Holly Robinson. That wasn’t a steady job. My first steady job was with Dickie Small, back in high school.”

How did you make the transition to becoming a race rider? “Dickie and my parents went to college. They didn’t want me to become a jockey because it’s a tough life to live. They wanted me to go to school. They were protective that way. But Dickie started to help me once he realized this is what I wanted to do. I still worked for different people when I was in college. Dickie was always good to me. I would work for him in the morning, then go to college. I then worked at Delaware for Jonathan Sheppard. I wanted to get a change of scenery and work for someone else. Then, after college, I worked for Gary Capuano at Laurel. Each of those trainers is different, but each one is a real good horseman. I learned a lot of different things working for them. I think it really helped when I started to ride. When I first started, I didn’t have an agent. I did it all on my own. I was very shy. That taught me how to go out and sell myself to people, talk to them all.”

Where did you go to college? “I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art. I studied drawing. Nature drawing, figure drawing.”

Do you think it helped your career by starting off at a later age than most apprentice jockeys? “Absolutely. It all really helped. I don’t think I would have been ready or mature enough to ride at 16 or 17. As much as I hated going to college, Dickie and my parents were right. I needed to go. It helped me grow up.”

How happy are you with the way the past year has gone? “I’m super thrilled. It doesn’t get much better than that. The year started off so slow. Me and my current agent, Jay Burris, really worked through a lot, trying to get my footing. I had great opportunities at Colonial last summer. I like riding on turf. I went from winning one race now and then to winning nearly one a day there.”

Do you think you have a chance to win the Eclipse Award as top apprentice jockey for 2010? “That never even crossed my mind. I was just trying to win. I don’t pay much attention to that. I just try to focus on the horses I’m riding. I don’t like to look too far in advance.”

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How has the transition gone in the past month from being an apprentice to, excuse the phrase, a journeyman? “It’s been really good. Everybody has been real supportive. I couldn’t ask for a better group of trainers to work with. They’re loyal. If you do right by them, they’ll do right by you. No one’s shied away so far.”

Why do you think so many female riders, like Anna Napravnik recently and, before that, Julie Krone, have been able to gain a foothold by starting in Maryland? “Trainers here are very good horsemen. They don’t have the philosophy that you have to be Hulk Hogan out there. They just want you to ride a smart race. You have to be strong, but they’re not worried about you being a man. If you can ride, you can ride. That’s good enough for them.”

Greatest moment of career? “It’s all been pretty great. I’d say winning six in a row on Capixaba. He was trained by Ferris Allen and then Linda Albert. He kind of worked his way up from the claiming ranks. The sixth race he won was an allowance race.”

Best horse ridden? “My all-time favorite is Colony Club, one of Alex White’s horses. I had gotten on her as a 2-year-old at the farm, rode her in a point-to-point race, and then in a race at Colonial. She was my first winner. It was only my second mount. Neither of us knew what was going on. She made me look good. I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for her. Another horse is Brace, for Dickie Small. That horse is a lot of fun to ride. He comes from way out of it. You think you’re not going to get there, but he comes rolling. It’s fun when you start passing everybody like that. Another one I really enjoyed is a horse trained by Kathy Dibben, a mare named Hurricane Carousel. She’s cheap, but she tries really hard. You’ve got to love those.”

Favorite restaurant? “Rosetta’s Kitchen, in Asheville, N.C. Their barbecue tempeh is amazing. I originally went to the University of North Carolina, Asheville. I spent six years in college. I started there, then finished here.”

Favorite ice cream? “Black cherry and Breyer’s chocolate.”

Favorite TV show? “I love ‘Modern Family.’ ”

Last book read? “I just read ‘The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon,’ by David Grann. It’s about a guy who took his son and a friend to the Amazon, trying to find the lost city of El Dorado.”

Favorite musician? “I love the Boss, Bruce Springsteen.”

Other hobbies? “I love to climb. I like to go running quite a bit. And I like to salsa dance.”

Childhood hero? “Probably Mikey Smithwick. Even at an old age, he’d get on these things that were crazy and they’d relax for him. He was an amazing person.”

Childhood dream? “When I was really little I wanted to be a spy. I know that sounds really weird. Now that I’ve said it they probably wouldn’t want me.”

Person most admired? “My grandmother, Pete Clark, is pretty amazing. She’s into her 80’s and still has her own business, an antique business, and works five or six days a week.”

Future ambitions? “Outside of conquering the known world, I’d like to ride some truly great horses. Horses like a Man o’ War, Ruffian, Zenyatta, something like that.”