Neil Boyce, a successful Chicago horseman for years, died March 8. He was 83.
A trainer by profession, Boyce operated a successful stable in Chicago with his former wife, trainer Michele Boyce, in the name of N. and M. Boyce Racing Stable. Among the stakes winners raced by the outfit were such popular runners as Calestoga and Valid Vixen.
Calestoga, campaigned with Frank Chlumsky, was good enough to run in the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I). He went into the race off lengthy wins in the Chicago Handicap at Hawthorne and the Commonwealth Breeders’ Cup Stakes at Keeneland but finished unplaced.
Valid Vixen, bred by Michele Boyce, won three consecutive stakes in 1989, including the Sixty Sails Handicap (gr. III) at Sportsman’s Park. She earned a career total of $492,655.
Neil Boyce sent out his first stakes winner in 1962 and trained 32 others prior to his retirement in 1999. He enjoyed his greatest success in the 1980s, saddling 18 added-money winners. He and Michele were married from 1981-98. From 1976 until his retirement, he won with 892 of his 5,000 starters.
Boyce was the early trainer of Farma Way, who developed into a multiple grade I winner and millionaire while conditioned by D. Wayne Lukas.
Boyce raced 11 stakes winners, all in partnership. He was the breeder of eight added-money winners alone and with others.
A native of Hagerman, Idaho, Boyce was one of a dozen children. Growing up around horses in Idaho, he competed in rodeos in the Northwest and later became a jockey.
Boyce served as a military policeman during World War II in Okinawa and Korea and received citations for his work. A brother was killed in action in Italy during the war.
Boyce, who returned from the war too heavy to continue as a jockey, was a member of various racing organizations, including both the California and Illinois Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Associations. When he and Michele were married, Boyce sometimes would spend the winter in California while she stayed in Illinois. The couple owned Silver Fox Farm near St. Charles, Ill.
In addition to Michele, who continues to train in Chicago, Boyce’s survivors include children Melvin, Randy, and Sandra from a first marriage. A grandson is serving in Iraq.
Contributions may be made to the Willamette Valley Hospice, 1015 3rd St. NW, Salem, Ore., 97304; or the California Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Foundation, P.O. Box 660129, Arcadia, Calif., 91066.